Many companies are suddenly dealing with petabytes of information instead of terabytes. Keeping track of all that data and creating value from it, says Jeanne Ross, director of the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, may require more than technology — it may just require a data dictator.
Open a newspaper or magazine, click on a news story or case study and there it is, writ large: The promise of big data. What has brought about this sudden interest in data analytics? Jeanne Ross, the director and principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research (CISR), says it is a confluence of events: companies are getting better at the processes that create their data, new technologies are creating new ways to access and analyze that data and business leaders are being bombarded with stories of others' success with analytics. Ross has been at MIT Sloan School of Management for the past 19 years. For the last four years she's been the director of CISR, which focuses on how companies get value from information technology and on the digitization of processes and effective use of information. CISR has 85 corporate sponsors that fund the Center's research, provide feedback and participate in events. For her part, Ross examines the organizational and performance implications related to enterprise architecture, IT governance, business processes, disruptive technologies and business agility in an increasingly global, information-intensive world. She also leads executive education courses on IT management, working with such corporations as PepsiCo, McKinsey, General Electric, TRW, Cisco, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, IBM and Credit Suisse. In a conversation with David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review Innovation Hubs, and Renee Boucher Ferguson, a contributing editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, Ross discussed the issues facing companies today as they explore the potential of data analytics for their organizations. How do you find the value in your data? First of all, you have to know what is going to make you great. If you want to run yourself as a company that is data savvy, information savvy, analytics savvy, you need great data about your business. That means somebody is dictating. There is somebody who says, "This is how we will define sales, this is how we will define returns, this is when we will register revenue, and we are all living by this rule. Until we do that, we don't have data that's useful for most kinds of analytics.