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AIIM President John Mancini: How to get big data off the hype curve

John Mancini, president of The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), a nonprofit organization for IT professionals based in Silver Spring, Md., was a featured speaker at this fall's Kodak Alaris Global Directions 2013 conference in Washington, D.C.

In the first part of this video Q&A, he spoke with SearchCIO's Linda Tucci about the difficulties of dealing with legacy IT systems amid rapid technology change. Here, Mancini touches on why companies need to change their approach to big data, how CIOs can remain relevant and what's required to make social collaboration work in the enterprise.

We've heard a lot of talk at the conference about how big data is going to change -- not just how businesses operate -- but the world. What do you see as the major hurdles holding companies back from leveraging big data now?

John Mancini: We did a white paper on this called The Yin and Yang of Big Data. The point we were trying to make is that there's been a lot of focus on the technical side of the house and on the computing side of the house, and I think what's been missing is a focus on the business side of the house.

Again, going back to the why question: "Why are we doing this in the first place?" I think eventually what's going to happen is that organizations will switch from big data experimentation to conducting experiments with big data. It may seem like it's just a semantic difference, but it really is a substantive difference, because it drives the point that big data, if it's going to get off the hype curve, has to start with [defining] the business problems that it's trying to solve and not assume that those problems will just magically emerge from the data.

That puts a new cast on IT and business alignment.

Mancini: Yeah, and I think the other issue it raises is that businesses can't afford to just delegate this to technologists. Technologists with a business bent are important, but just as important are business people with a technology bent, particularly as you start moving into an analytic-rich era.

Another big topic here has been the unprecedented rate of technology change. It's sort of mind-boggling, with the [advent of] social, mobile and cloud computing. How do you see these technologies playing out at enterprise companies in the next five to ten years?

Mancini: Ten years is a long time in the technology business. … I think people are starting to realize that every company is an information management company, that underlying any business, whether you're in the carrying rocks business or whether you're in the business of creating semiconductors, information underlies your fundamental competitiveness.

So, what organizations are dealing with right now is the skill set associated with doing that, and I think that's the big challenge. The skills necessary for organizations to be competitive in terms of keeping up with technology are far more widespread than they ever were before. You can't just leave it to the IT people. The business people have to understand technology. They have to understand how it's used. They can't afford the luxury of just handing it off to IT people, and that's a challenge for most organizations.

So, you anticipated my next question. Do you think these new technologies make companies less reliant on the CIO or more reliant on the CIO?

Mancini: I think more reliant on the CIO, if the CIO is truly a CIO and not a CTO.

I think if he or she is a technologist first and foremost, and nothing but a technologist, that skill set is not what organizations need. Organizations need the skill set implied by the CIO, which is chief information officer, and not only information just in terms of how you manage it, but how you apply it to the business. Those people are going to be extremely valuable -- and in an extremely vulnerable position because the stakes are high.

What enterprise technologies do you think could work a lot better today?

Mancini: Oh, man, there are a lot of them, but one that I usually come back to and continue to be frustrated with is how organizations structure the work of Knowledge workers. And what I mean by that is that there are so many rich tools out there that people can use for collaboration, and what we usually fall back on is sending around emails with gigantic attachments that people say "Reply all" to, and that's what passes for collaboration!

We've got so many interesting technologies ranging from video technologies to Web conferencing to document collaboration. As organizations get their arms around that, and as they start to think about how they bring social technologies into the enterprise, that's where there are lots and lots of opportunity that is really untapped in most organizations.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, executive editor, or on Twitter at @ltucci.

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