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Issue of October 2004 

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Information significance

The significance of information will evovle the CIO

In an age that is likely to see an information surcharge, Jose Ruggero, Vice President, Executive Programs, Asia Pacific, Gartner tells Deepali Gupta about the significance of information and how it will evolve the role of a CIO

What is the current knowledge trend in the industry today?

Trend in the industry today is towards centralization; to bring business units together, not necessarily collect all data in one server, but to bring it together in appearance to the end user. Each person is protecting his/her knowledge, because knowledge is power. The aim of the business is to somehow get everyone to consolidate that knowledge.

We are talking of a CRM trend. It is necessary that all planning issues be resolved at a business level first, because otherwise the organization can't do anything with technology. However, the tools used to convert and converge the data will matter in the future.

How does a company know what kind of data delivery systems to put in place?

A company has to understand the tolerance or cycle of the business. In a hamburger company for example they could use live data from their point of sales. With that data the management can see which product is selling and make quick decisions. Here they need real time information. The question is how quickly the company needs data. In some cases getting data overnight is enough. In that case there is no need to invest in complicated technology to get real time data.

Where does all the information come from?

You can build Business Intelligence ground up or top down or incremental. There is a lot of information companies have they don't even realize they have. What it takes is human beings to understand the business and mine that data. Then put a solution in place that will pick up the right data at the right time. And the skill to find the nugget of information that will precipitate a critical decision is a rare skill. We see companies suing each other to get people like that.

Will companies in the future pool data for business advantage?

We see that already see that happening. Hallmark does it in the US. The boundaries between and retail companies supply chain used to be like a wall. Now that is almost gone. So inventory information is now being shared in real time.

The charter of a CIO is to build what the business needs. So if the business needs the information it's not the CIOs problem, since the CIO is only there to build and support the systems. The role of the CIO however, is evolving even though it is not there yet.

In the future, if the CIO sees this problem, he/she will need to sit with the board and say that, we have a problem. Thereafter the CIO should assume the role of a consultant to the business. It will be necessary to engage the business users in conversation to explain the impact of handy information on decision making. That's where it has to start. Someone has to take ownership and map the data back to the business. Then it depends on the information needs of the influential users. There is no silver bullet

Once every company has its data system in place, will there be any need for research firms like Gartner?

80 percent of companies in the US and 40 percent in Europe, have Business Intelligence and aren't sure whether that helps. The business doesn't really understand what IT can do. Our business, at Gartner, grows because information is exploding and competition is confusing. Sometimes all that is required is the seed of an idea. And we provide the forum for them to collaborate and think. Our reasearch analysts look into the future and give a prediction combined with what has been done and what is in the process of being done.

Information will play a big part in competitive advantage and in what we call symmetry between technology and business. So with every transaction, information has to be collected. That information has value, as long as you are smart enough to understand what to make of it.

Stored information seems to be growing at a phenomenal rate. Is all this information pertinent, or are we storing data for the sake of storing it?

Information management is about understanding what is the relevant information, and keeping only that. Sometimes however, you need to store everything. Like in a bank if there is a complaint about the bank, the complete record of the incident history must be retrievable. The challenge there is that the bank does not replicate any of this information. As a customer you may have a mortgage, personal loan and credit card with the bank. The way to save such data is to store the basic information once and have links into all the other things. I can't comment on the rate it's growing, but yes, replication is a problem.

Deepali Gupta can be reached at

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