Big Data, Big CIO Opportunity?

There's enough hype, marketing, and certainly media attention on Big Data to catch a CIO's attention. But beyond the hype, there is something very real and very important for CIOs about Big Data - a potential opportunity and a possible threat.

I really like O'Reilly's simplified definition of Big Data and Introduction to the Big Data Landscape. Big Data is volume (how much data), velocity (how much new data, and how much does the data change), and variety (both structured and unstructured data). Big Data is "hot" because the technologies to solve Big Data challenges are more accessible - cloud, in memory databases, easy to use visualization tools, new database options (nosql, xml, ...), and choice between open source and commercial tools. Big Data is also Big Business, and is sized to $50 billion by 2017 with both big and small vendors competing. Also, new data and analytical capabilities has the potential to transform entire industries.

Big Data also presents both talent and organizational challenges, but more on that in another post.

In talking about Big Data with a colleague, I realized what should be important to the CIO today  is that Big Data is relative. How much volume, velocity, or variety that "defines" Big Data is relative to the CIO's capabilities (both technical and organizational) versus the competition in the industry. So an organization that is lagging in Big Data and analytical capabilities is going to find that their competition is smarter, faster, and possibly more profitable. A CIO that can drive the organization's Big Data capabilities has the potential to create a strategic advantage versus competition.

Big Data is about scale - can the CIO outpace the organization's vision on what it wants to do with data using a combination of talent, technology and process? If the organization doesn't have a "data vision", then the CIO needs to paint the canvas of possibilities by demonstrating new analytical capabilities.

So yes, there's plenty of media and hype, but the CIO has to pay attention.


  1. Anonymous9:20 AM

    Looking forward to hearing about the org and tech change needed to handle big data. There are vast opportunities to expand into new areas for any business vertical with big data. I think a big hurdle will be visualizing the volume of data in meaningful ways - beyond the simple bar/line chart.

    1. Thanks for the comment. The org/tech change is in two big domains that are dependent - the IT challenge of managing volume/velocity/variety, and the corresponding analytical challenge in driving value/intelligence from it. I will cover this in a follow up post.


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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.