‘Thick data’ and how CIOs can become Code Halo heroes
By Jayajyoti Sengupta May 13, 2015
- Big data delivers numbers, thick data delivers ‘stories’
- CIOs are empowered to inform and lead the end-to-end digital business makeover
IN today’s society, all kinds of data – structured and unstructured – pour into organisations from a wide spectrum of sources, in colossal quantities, and at high velocity, generated by modern-day business applications.
Traditional database tools are finding it difficult to make sense of or manage these complex data, also known as big data.
However, big data is only the first step in the digital transformation of business. In addition, perception gaps are found between non-IT business decision-makers and IT leaders.
Therefore, many organisations are not able to ‘compete on code,’ which is the development required to drive the most significant transformation of business.
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Gunning for ‘thick data’
What organisations should gun for after big data, is thick data.
Big data reveals insights with a particular range of data points, while thick data takes one step further and uncovers the meaning and insights behind big data visualisation and analysis, revealing the social context of, and connections between, data points.
Thick data leverages human brain power instead of computational power. Unlike big data, making meaning of thick data results in useful insights – quality beats quantity.
To put it simply, big data delivers numbers while thick data delivers stories, relying largely on human learnings.
Organisations need stories in order to build stronger ties with stakeholders, stories that contain emotions, which no normalised dataset can offer.
The data that accumulates around people, devices and organisations – Code Halos – is robust, powerful and continually growing in richness and complexity.
Organisations need to tame and make sense of this first to extract qualitative and contextual insights before they are able to make informed decisions.
Essentially, organisations can charter into new and unknown territories, map analysis and relate with the emotional or even visceral context in which people encounter a product or service, in order to adapt when circumstances change.
Breaking down the business-IT divide
A recent study revealed a disparity between what business leaders want from IT and what CIOs (chief information officers) believe they are providing.
According to the research conducted by CIO Magazine and IDC, 54% of business leaders see the IT group as an obstacle to getting work done, while just one-third of CIOs felt the same way.
The next step is to erase or break down the walls of the business-IT divide that has confounded enterprises since the emergence of electronic data processing.
In order for digital business transformation to become a reality via competing on code, organisations need to have a Code Halo-informed game plan that assumes a tight alignment and convergence of the business and IT strategies.
For instance, Marriot Corporation, which was presented the prestigious ‘Enterprise Value’ award by CIO Magazine several years ago, utilised customer code to enhance the design and implementation of its algorithms for customer affinity and room rate optimisation, which helped the company continuously strengthen its bottom line.
Investing time and budget on understanding user interfaces, applications and data on a deeper level has funded innovation over infrastructure.
Hence, organisations are able to understand the context of collected data, along with relevant stakeholders’ Code Halos, and outperform others that do not, boosting competitive advantage.
Driving the Code Halo revolution
At its core, business is all about making bets on human behaviour – the question why a customer or employee behaves one way rather than another, then finds answers by examining connections among personal, organisational and device Code Halos … and subsequently, further embeds IT into functional business areas.
Organisations are changing the way businesses view and leverage IT. The Code Halo revolution is an uprising that will disrupt businesses for years to come; it is all about digital information-led business changes.
With IT being at the vanguard of technology and data-powered transformation, CIOs are best positioned to direct organisations towards it.
Being steeped in information architecture and data analysis, CIOs are empowered to inform and lead the end-to-end digital business makeover.
CIOs need to think further and beyond collecting and accumulating data – they need to restructure and re-skill their teams to connect the digital dots spawned by people, process, organisation and device Code Halos.
Then, they need to equip business with solid information architects and deep-thinking business analysts who can, in turn, detect the patterns contained in rich data mosaics and predict the direction of market, business drivers, and customer sentiment.
In the near future, CIOs who are able to see the ‘why’ of data will ultimately become Code Halos heroes of their organisations.
Jayajyoti Sengupta is vice president and head of Asean and Greater China at Cognizant Technology Solutions.
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