CIOs have many responsibilities in today’s enterprise as their roles continue to evolve from service provider to value creator. They’re expected to help identify and facilitate new business opportunities, streamline organizational operations, assess and communicate risks, and increase enterprise-wide productivity.

There’s also an underlying expectation from the C-suite and the board level that the CIO will discover new ways for employees and work teams to use information and get their work done more easily and effectively. One emerging discipline that offers organizational leaders and other knowledge workers a great deal of promise are self-service data preparation tools.

Torrents of data are pouring into enterprises at unprecedented rates. According to IDC, the digital universe is now doubling in size every two years. The volumes of data available to business executives and employees across the enterprise offer incredible opportunities for real-time, data-driven decision-making. But with data exploding at exponential rates, this also creates substantial challenges for CIOs and the enterprise.

For instance, many business leaders struggle to draw insights from data that’s available to them. A KPMG survey of CIOs and CFOs reveals that fewer than 10% of business executives believe they’re in a position to act on data regarding customer preferences and behaviors. Moreover, 85% of executives polled in the same study say they don’t know how to analyze data that’s been collected.

Meanwhile, handing data analysis off to IT and data scientists to carry out isn’t really a viable option. Traditional approaches where IT develops business intelligence (BI) reports for executives and business users to consume and derive insights from simply take too long and much of the data is often stale by the time these reports are evaluated.

Plus, reports that are generated for business users prevent end users from applying their business context and probing the data to identify customer shifts and market trends. 

While data scientists can offer a great deal of value in their ability to discover anomalies, patterns, and outliers in data, people with these skill sets are in extremely short supply. According to McKinsey & Company, the U.S. alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 professionals with analytical expertise.

Self-service data prep tools help organizations to address these resource and time to insight challenges. Although each tool offers a different range of features, many self-service technologies enable business users to collect and combine data from a variety of sources without requiring any dependence on IT.

In addition, ease-of-use that’s being developed for many of these tools along with visualization capabilities are making it possible for non-technical users to gain a much deeper understanding of what the data is telling them. Business users can even apply their own business rules to find out why customer satisfaction rates might be dipping among a particular customer segment or why revenue for a specific product is outpacing other products.

“There is an incredible amount of data available. But 80% of time is really spent getting the data ready – ingesting it, giving it context, structuring it,” said Anup Sharma, Global CIO, GE Oil & Gas in a recent HMG Strategy video. “The old way of doing things was slow, complicated, and resource-intensive. There are some very innovative things around getting these incredible amounts of data and comprehensive data sets into a single place, ready for insights to be delivered.”

Key Takeaways

  • CIOs are expected to provide business users with simpler ways to access and digest information.
  • Traditional approaches to providing business leaders with business intelligence reports or assistance from data scientists in evaluating market and customer trends from data often aren’t practical.
  • Self-service data prep tools can enable business leaders and knowledge workers to gather, model, visualize and analyze comprehensive data sets on their own for greater empowerment and speed to insight.