Who’s eating your lunch?

Who’s eating your lunch?

Dine with the CMO, says David Gee

I recently attended a conference run by the Association for Data Driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA), and naturally, I expected some speakers to touch on data analytics and digital innovation.

One speaker who delivered, at least on the analytics front, was Amr Awadallah, founder and CTO at Cloudera. But Amr only managed to attract eight or nine people to his presentation, all wearing suits.

This didn’t make sense. Cloudera is an open source Apache Hadoop offering, and there was hardly a ponytail in sight.

The solution is an enterprise data hub that stores images, PDFs, videos – any type of unstructured data. It’s a powerful concept that has more functionality than many of today’s enterprise data warehouses.

To me, what was staggering was this concept of schema ‘on read’ and ‘on write’. In essence ‘schema on read’, means that traditional ETL (extract, transform and load) is completed as required ‘on the fly’.

Wow! I was absolutely sure that most of the audience didn’t understand the implications of this. Cloudera was trying to sell its wares to decision makers but nobody was eating it up.

It felt that like the old IBM approach, except in this case the CEO was not the target. It was the chief marketing officer (CMO) or members of his or her team.

This ‘divide and conquer’ battle approach has been tried and tested, and unfortunately it appears to be working effectively.

Digital groundhog day

If we look at this scenario from a broad perspective, it’s no different to the dialogue that is underway around creating and implementing innovative digital products across organisations.

It’s a similar dialogue that played out around 2000-2001 during the dot com era with the ‘ebusiness’ and ‘emarketing’ guff that was everywhere. This is happening again in this so-called “digital” era.

During those dot com years, I regarded creating and implementing digital strategies as my responsibility regardless of whether I working alone or with other executives across the business.

So I’ve seen this pattern before and when it comes to developing digital initiatives, it would be a fatal mistake for IT to assume that the business owns this and we only support its efforts.

Fast food, not a degustation

Our challenge will be that each data analytics and digital project will be treated as an exception that has strong strategic value. There will be pressure to ensure that we don’t get in the way of these initiatives.

However, we know that fast food is often associated with the term ‘junk food’. We instead need these efforts to be more ‘organic’, and grow and evolve. This won’t be a slow degustation and if we think that, then we will be excluded from the table. So we have to act now.

This is not about being a corporate architecture cop, although there are elements that are in play in this regard. We have to ensure that there is a bridge to connect the organisation's need to create agile digital offerings for customers and actually releasing these products to production on time.

At one end, we have are under pressure to create a minimal viable product as fast as possible as part of any digital initiative.

At the other end, we need to ensure that each solution is built properly with the appropriate security, privacy, and scalability in mind. Unfortunately, when you raise these issues, your colleagues may think you’re the ‘bad cop’ slowing down innovation.

Dinner for two

The only way to make this work is to have a dinner for two; let’s partner with the other parts of the business to make this neither feast or famine.

It’s just not going to be good outcome, when we or the CMO dines alone.

We need to actually focus on the whole dining experience (in the eyes of the customer) and make this experience one that gives your company a greater share of the consumer's wallet.

David Gee is the former CIO of CUA where he recently completed a core banking transformation. He has more than 18 years' experience as a CIO, and was also previously director at KPMG Consulting. Connect with David on LinkedIn.

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