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How top CIOs tackle big data, analytics and cloud security

Brian Eastwood | May 30, 2013
In an increasingly complex IT landscape, leading CIOs seek novel ways to use big data and cloud services to improve business processes. Keeping data secure remains a challenge, though, as does finding the right people to manage it all.

The role of the CIO is constantly in flux, but the rapid emergence of big data, analytics and cloud technology—and the accompanying proliferation of data itself—has further strained IT innovation and added complexity. All this comes at a time when companies expect IT to do more with less and the balance of IT services spending is poised to tilt away from the CIO.

With that at stake, the leading CIOs and CEOs who spoke at last week's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium gave the senior IT and business executives in the audience food for thought about how to use data analytics and cloud technologies to improve businesses processes without putting additional strain on IT resources.

Data Be Nimble, Data Be Quick
Guess? has many product lines, but the decision to sell one specific garment or accessory over another can lead to tremendous sales. The data analysis required to make this decision used to require running queries against a spreadsheet. It took hundreds of hours and resulted in many failed queries-and phone calls to Senior Vice President and CIO Michael Relich. Knowing that Guess possessed the master data, Relich and his team developed 2-D barcodes that buyers could scan with an iPad to pull up data on a particular garment.

This project wasn't part of any strategic plan or long-term mobility initiative. Rather, it stemmed from an obvious need. Many of today's big data analytics projects do.

For William Miller Jr., senior vice president and CIO at semiconductor chip maker Broadcom, this means getting in front of demand rather than merely reacting to it.

At Broadcom, this happens when the IT and engineering teams get together in an operating environment. This has led to the deployment of enterprise social network technology such as Jabber and Yammer, which lets engineers self-organize and then disassemble when a task is done. "It makes engineers maximally productive so they don't spend a lot of time setting up their own environments," Miller says. "It's a highly productive way or organizing."

Broadcom's engineers also work in a private cloud environment, which gives them the flexibility to run jobs any time of day (or night). This flexibility really shows its values when Broadcom makes an acquisition and employees of the new company come in on Monday to see that their assets were fully integrated into the grid over the weekend. "That reassures us that these investments are worthwhile," Miller says.

Data Visualization Gets to What's Really Needed
Big data investments are worthwhile only when people can visualize the information that analysis begets. The president of Liberty Mutual Global Specialty used to receive 80-page operational reports every quarter, and it took several hours for the executive team to go through each one, says Mojgan Lefebvre, senior vice president and CIO of Global Specialty.


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