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The Art of the Possible: Be the Data Whisperer

Collaboration | Posted on November 15, 2018

Data is today’s big differentiator. With the right analytics in place, it has the power to drive business operations, rather than report on them. With the right insights, an organization can find natural advantages in any of its processes. But for a long time, the CIO served as a data “plumber.” The top priority: ensuring information flowed through the enterprise without too many leaks. 

Now we recognize that all that data has tangible value, provided we know how to use it. Today’s CIO determines how to extract the greatest value from future data and what’s already on-hand. Then, they refine it to drive faster, smarter decision-making. In this capacity, we call this CIO the “data whisperer.”

The allure of disruptive data technologies grows as data becomes cheaper and easier to store. Automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are already sailing past the “consideration” phase. Now they form core components of many enterprise data management strategies. In fact: 

  • Almost 90% of IT leaders believe more automation will increase the speed and accuracy of decision-making
  • Deloitte estimates the number of machine learning pilots increased 2x between 2017 and 2018 – and will double again by 2020
  • 61% of organizations believe machine learning and AI will be their most significant data investments in the coming year
  • Meanwhile, 84% of enterprises believe investing in AI will yield greater competitive advantages 

To have any effect, though, these technologies must be more than shiny new toys. As part of an enterprise data strategy, they present real potential – but only where there is a practical use case.  

Meanwhile, data reserves continue to expand. The approach of storing data in a massive, enterprise-wide “data lake” has often resulted in something closer to a “data swamp.” This morass of raw, ungoverned data is difficult to understand, share or put to good use. Without a coherent strategy in place, it soon becomes impossible to draw meaningful conclusions.   

As “data whisperer,” the CIO takes the lead in solving one of the biggest problems in the enterprise today: deriving tangible value from all that data. Below are five approaches the CIO can take to steer their data strategy forward.

  • Set priorities: 

    Unrefined data has little value on its own. The first step is to separate existing data into two categories: information that has a meaningful connection to business goals – and the rest. By deciding up-front whether a given set of data has business value, the data whisperer can make sound decisions about what to store and what to scrap. 

  • Know when enough is enough:

    Many organizations expend a lot of effort collecting every input and data point. But this often results in the development of unnavigable data. The “right” data set for an organization may be large-scale or precise and limited. Aligning data collection with business goals helps transform “information” into “intelligence.” 

  • Put AI into action – the right way:

    One of data whisperer’s chief concerns is to take advantage of next-generation analytics tools. But it’s also imperative to avoid introducing any of these technologies for its own sake. First, clarify the problem that needs solving. Then, determine whether AI, automation or machine learning is going to solve that problem. Data initiatives that focus on empowering better decisions have the highest success rate

  • Help your data strategy save you money

    Advanced analytics have the potential to reduce enterprise costs. Tapping into these insights helps the CIO steer organizations down more productive avenues. At the same time, they help by identifying unproductive investments. In fact, almost 50% of technology executives believe these tools and practices add the most value by decreasing expenses.   

  • Stave off the start-ups

    If you’re not doing the disrupting – you may already be a “disruptee.” In fact, 47% of IT executives surveyed by New Vantage feared their companies would face major disruption in the next decade. The right data strategy can help create the kind of flawless customer experience competitors will covet. Yet, as data whisperer the CIO must also ensure data collection and personalization don’t cross the line into “creepy.” 


In the next few years, the key to success for any organization will be an ability to gather, access and use actionable information faster than ever. The effective CIO will be one with the critical capability to understand current technology, respond to emerging trends and forge raw data into competitive insights. They will be the “data whisperer.”

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