We spend a great deal of time in face-to-face settings. We subscribe to a wide range of analyst publications and surveys to broaden our perspectives.
But, sometimes, we feel the need to invest in our own surveys around important questions we believe deserve more detailed answers.
Working with CIO Magazine, we were able to uncover some useful insights around how IT leaders in larger enterprises around the globe are thinking about big data, security and cloud.
We also found some surprising differences between US perspectives and more global ones.
I Am A Survey Skeptic
Far too often, an "independent survey" becomes nothing more than a marketing vehicle for whatever a specific vendor (or publication) wants to sell.
While you might question EMC's motivations in sponsoring this work, you can't really question the methodology --it's better than most.
Other than inherent selection bias (e.g. you don't get the views of people who decline to participate), it's a reasonably diverse sample across larger organizations, verticals, geographies, etc.
Personally, I never look at data unless I first understand how it was gathered. It's a very good habit to get into.
A Clear Shift To Value Generation
While saving money and reducing expenses is always a popular topic for IT leadership (as it should be), I found the "Your Top Five Investment Priorities" clearly reflective of a sharp bias towards value generation vs. expense minimization.
That's not a surprise for me personally, but it might be a surprise for some in the IT industry who are more focused on efficiency and expenditure issues.
Check out the most popular responses: "improving productivity", "better decision making", "improved service levels", "agility" and so on.
Over two thirds of the responses indicated that people issues were front-and-center for them: right skills, right roles, right model, etc. No surprise there.
Security always shows up high on these sorts of survey questions, so that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
The third most popular response -- "making the case" to the business -- was gratifying to see. I routinely see IT leaderships struggle to convince the business to make the required investments for sustained competitive advantage.
Note how the non-US responses are decidedly different. Security rises to the top, followed by the ability to control IT service delivery. No, I can't explain the difference.
Personally, I found that the low responses to "freedom of choice" rather gratifying, because -- after all -- restricting certain technology choices in exchange for superior operational benefits is the underlying premise of newer converged infrastructure approaches such as a VCE Vblock.
Big Data Is Now Front And Center
Over the weekend, I went back and forth online with a gentleman who was absolutely convinced that this whole big data thing was little more than vendor hype.
Based on the responses to this survey, it would be safe to say that his opinion is now decidedly in the minority.
Within the US, a healthy 60% of the replies considered big data initiatives either critical or important. That's impressive enough, but look at the numbers for non-US IT leaders: an amazing 82% or greater.
About a quarter of the replies indicated they'd already deployed what they consider big data tools. We might quibble on definitions here, but obviously a good number of people think they're moving in that direction.
Another third of the replies indicated they were actively considering big data tools, and another 20% saw themselves acquiring capabilities in the next twelve months.
If all this is simply vendor hype, I have to say it's very effective vendor hype :)
Who's Leading The Charge?
Maybe this one should be taken with a small grain of salt.
When asked who was responsible for driving the big data strategy at their organizations, 69% of IT leaders said -- naturally -- that they were. Half indicated that business leadership was playing a strong role as well. Good.
Clearly, IT needs to play a big role in enabling big data analytics proficiency, but it's clearly a business thing at its essence.
The more illuminating was roughly the quarter of the responses who saw it as a staff responsibility, on either the IT or business side. And an interesting 13% who saw the strategy being driven by an outside party: vendor, consultant, etc.
Are You Thinking About Data Scientists?
I argue that the key rock stars behind unlocking the power of big data analytics are the new breed of data science professionals; most decidedly distinct from the familiar business analyst.
Looking at the numbers, I guess not many share my opinion in this regard -- yet. Or do they?
Only 22% of the US responses indicate that they either have this key skill set, or are planning to acquire it shortly.
But look how the numbers shift radically once you step outside of the US. Almost half of the non-US responses indicate that they consider this talent very important.
No, I can't explain the difference.
There's More, But …
The survey itself is quite lengthy -- more detail around these topics, as well as extended examinations of attitudes around security and cloud. While looking at survey results is always educational, I didn't find any real surprises in any of the responses or patterns I saw.
But the responses around big data were surprising to many of us.
A healthy subset of IT leadership now appears to realize that there's a big opportunity at hand to use information in new ways to create value and differentiation, and they're starting to invest.
And, from where I sit, that's pretty cool ...