The Resolution

What’s data got to do with IT?

One of the most useful questions the Board can ask the Chief Executive is: ‘How well does the capital that’s tied-up in the organisation’s systems and processes, support our staff members and customers to meet the company’s purpose?”

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One of the most useful questions the Board can ask the Chief Executive is: ‘How well does the capital that’s tied-up in the organisation’s systems and processes, support our staff members and customers to meet the company’s purpose?”

To answer this question the CEO will need to turn to the Chief Information Officer. The CIO will then need to determine how much information in the system is being used to drive customer and so management choices.

An organisation that knows how much information it has, both from within its own domain and its ecosystem, will stand a better chance of using 100% of it.

And an organisation that can use 100% of its available information will be incredibly lean and nimble. However I have yet to find an organisation that productively uses all of the information that it holds. 


By starting the process to understand what you know, and do not know, and how much of your gathered information is actually useful (because a lot is not), will help the senior team be better able to guide the Board and the organisation to get more value from existing systems.

This change of focus is surprisingly effective. It will also remove much of the complexity that stymies competitors (see Value of decommissioning legacy systems) about which system to use, which to decommission, which to invest in and what reports to run etc.

By looking at technological systems investment through the lens of value creation – that is increasing the capacity of staff members to deliver customer value and as a spin off - staff productivity – you get a return on information gathering technology capital investment that aligns with the business’ strategy.

So what systems should I chose and how should I deploy them?

To deliver on the premise of creating value the organisation will need to have the capability to easily implement new functions in the future. To do so it should have a measure on how much information the organisation can handle without introducing disproportionate complexity. 

In my experience, the best way to do this is to structure information assets in such a way as to ensure that complexity is compartmentalised within tightly controlled units (with well understood boundaries and properly defined interfaces to other information assets). 

In just the same way as washers in the tool box or gaskets in a car, these interfaces act as seals to dampen complexity or turbulence. This protects the whole organisation and still allows for experimentation and innovation, yet minimises any wider impact until it is ready.

Creating these silos may seem to go against conventional wisdom of having an integrated atomic layer and enterprise approach to data. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is simply ensuring that the largest possible quantity of information is made available to all stakeholders with the minimum possible complexity.

And in the true spirit of innovation – the engine room of which, is invariably under the jurisdiction of the Chief Information Officer – such compartmentalisation will allow for proper experimentation that can start small and be quickly and frequently iterated. 

I describe the actual measures themselves in my book, Information-Driven Business, as the ‘small world’s data measure’ for complexity, and ‘information entropy’ for quantity. 

Applying these measures is surprisingly easy. The question each CIO needs to be able to answer, is the way they align with the business strategy.  By thinking in terms of value creation this becomes a much easier conversation.

As the future is here and now - cognitive computing is a must

To ensure departments can respond to much more complex problems than currently delivered by interrogating the existing data, they will also need to invest in cognitive computing platforms that support business intelligence tools, Ai and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This will enable analysing unstructured data and corralling it in a central repository.

Some new scenarios will require teaching software how to digest and manage new data feeds. This means investing in technology that can learn and adapt to the information it receives.

But to be clear. While cognitive computing can help deliver enhanced analytical information to firms, it cannot replace human intelligence. It’s the nexus between a computer’s power to crunch large data sets and a human’s ability to understand the implications data analysis delivers, that provides really rich information to businesses.

Computers can only work on the data they have. They can't make a cognitive leap. An easy way to think about this is that technology may be able to compute information, but it can’t decide the best way to act on it.

The implications of the scenarios can be computed, but the decisions about which functions should be moved, shared or outsourced needs human judgement.

To conclude

We started by asking how well the capital that’s tied-up in the organisation’s systems and processes supports its staff members meet the company’s purpose to create and deliver value. And we concluded by outlining how cognitive computing will produce many opportunities to streamline processes in the business and deliver more insightful information to the executive and board about performance.

And in both cases the key to making the choices is information and data. So data has everything to do with IT! Just ask the right questions.


About Robert:

Robert Hillard is the Managing Partner of Deloitte Consulting in Australia.  In this role, he tackles the disruption of clients dealing with technology, new competitors, challenging economic conditions and changing regulatory priorities.

Robert has contributed to the Australian technology industry for more than 25 years through local and international roles, thought leadership and representation of the profession.  He is a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society and has served on the board of the Australian Information Industry Association.

Robert is well known for his work in business transformation, information technology and information management.  He is the author of Information-Driven Business (Wiley 2010) and co-author of Information Development using MIKE2.0 (Motion Publishing 2013).