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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.

Turning that long report into a list of key performance indicators required several steps, Lefebvre says. First was deciding key questions to answer. Then came agreeing on and prioritizing those questions. Next was building a set of reports. Data visualization was the final step. It's about "getting data down to what's really needed," Lefebvre says, adding that it took more than one quarter to get the report right.

"Getting people to adopt a data warehouse is a huge issue," Relich says. It's especially critical in an industry such as retail, where buyer's intuition is a well-honed skill. The solution for Guess has been to deliver meaningful data in an evolving format-first to the BlackBerry, then in Flash-powered dashboards made by graphic designers and, finally, in an iPad app. Giving buyers store-by-store sales data expedites decision making and reduces the number of planning meetings, Relich notes.

Real-time data visualization need not be limited to numbers. At Liberty Mutual, onsite risk engineers can take pictures and upload them to a database. From there, the images are checked against insurance rating engines. This lets underwriters make pricing determinations in hours as opposed to days, Lefebvre says.

Private, Hybrid Clouds May Answer Security, Latency Questions
The device that an employee uses to take those pictures brings up many questions for IT leaders, especially as the honeymoon phase of the BYOD movement ends and the security of the cloud services many use in conjunction with mobile devices is called into question.

Panelists in a discussion about the evolving cloud agenda suggest that, in addition to security, complexity must be considered as organizations consider the cloud.

After years of cloud vendors easily selling services to human resources, sales and other departments, often to the chagrin of IT departments, IT leaders are trying to rein in corporate assets and improve user management.

Now, says Richard Dorough, managing director of PwC Forensic Services, it makes sense to evaluate the data itself, the service level agreement and the cloud service security before moving anything to the cloud.

For Scott Blanchette, senior vice president of information and technology services for Vanguard Health Systems, this serves as a de facto endorsement of hybrid and private cloud deployments, especially for healthcare and other heavily regulated industries.

The value proposition for cloud services, Blanchette says, needs to be better, faster, cheaper, more flexible and more secure than what Vanguard can do internally. It's no surprise that security and privacy are consequential barriers to entry for cloud service providers; Google won't do it, he points out, while it took four years for Amazon Web Service to get FedRAMP certification and meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' cloud security standards.


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