The Big Data Disconnect Between CIOs and CFOs
Like time, information is money — and as big data really begins to take off, the potential for businesses to get more useful information takes off as well. Turning that information into business profits will become the task for chief information officers and chief financial officers alike.
But CIOs and CFOs are coming at big data from very different points of view. Somehow, those two divergent views have to come together to make big data work for their businesses. In a UK survey conducted by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by CSC, 65 CIOs and 65 CFOs at enterprise-size organizations were polled separately on how they view big data — and each other.
CIOs, it turns out, have a rather low opinion about CFOs' knowledge of big data. In the survey, a full 23 percent said "our CFO doesn't even know what big data is" — while only 3 percent of CFOs would say the same about themselves.
CIOs also don't think that CFOs see data in general as having monetary value. Only 9 percent of CIOs thought their CFOs would say data belongs on a balance sheet — but a whopping 52 percent of CFOs said that it does. Only 31 percent of CIOs indicated that their CFOs believed data had value even if it wasn't on a balance sheet; however, 58 percent of CFOs agreed with that statement.
IT's biggest fan?
Even more interestingly, CIOs predicted what CFOs would say about IT's role at their company. Is it just a necessary cost of doing business? Or does IT actually grow the business?
Of CIOs, 23 percent said IT grows the business, but only 18 percent thought that CFOs would feel the same way. In truth, 40 percent of CFOs agreed that IT grows the business. CFOs, it seems, have a higher opinion of IT's role in business growth than CIOs do.
Clearly, the business side of the business understands the value of both the IT department and the data it oversees, more than CIOs even realize.
Part of the reason for the disconnect may be found in another answer — about three in five CFOs say the quality of the data they get from IT and the speed at which they receive it is adequate at best. If CIOs are only hearing how they are falling short, they may not realize how much they are valued. The business needs the data that IT facilitates. They just need to get it faster and at a higher quality.
In the survey, CFOs were allowed to describe their relationship with the IT department. They used phrases such as "good but cold," and "controversial." However, they also said, "we need them" and "no IT — no business." The relationship may not be as close as it could be, but the respect is clearly there.
Big data: common ground
The place where both CIOs and CFOs can agree is on the opportunity that lies before them: big data. Nearly half of both groups agreed that big data will be the biggest thing to hit organizations since the Web (46 percent). It will be bigger than business intelligence (49 percent) and could revolutionize business operations (58 percent).
CIOs are closer to the data — and they see the potential. Seven out of 10 enterprises in the study have underutilized data that is costing them money to store. And 43 percent of CIOs see their data as a valuable asset that is being squandered.
If businesses can unlock the potential of their data, they can gain insights to accelerate their growth. CIOs and CFOs both know this. The next step is to sit down at the same table and figure out how they will exploit big data — together.
JEFF CARUSO is a senior managing editor with CSC’s digital marketing team.