Big Data

Consider how to acculturate analytics workers to retain them

CIOs must get the proper role integration and teamwork in place for analytics workers in the data center before they start their employment.

Acculturating analytics workers can be a formidable task. Acculturation in this context means combining different work areas or cultural enclaves within IT so they learn to collaborate with each other on problems and not recede into their separate silos. On a global IT level, this is also a cultural change, because crossing functional lines within the department (and not being territorial) is not what they are used to doing.

A couple of years ago, I was managing Marketing and IT for a company, and we made the decision to get more scientific for our marketing campaigns and to hire a market research analyst. This was in the days of fixed record, demographics data that was siphoned off of systems of record and stored in data warehouses, which we then executed batch reports against. (This is still the way most organizations obtain their business intelligence.) When we created the market research analyst position, we faced a dilemma: Should the position report to Marketing or IT? We decided to assign the position to Marketing, but we immediately encountered culture issues. The researcher, who was a left-brained analytical like many IT folks, had difficulty relating to a right-brained, creative, and intuitively oriented marketing department. Consequently, the individual spent most of his time working with IT, and he felt more comfortable there.

These organizational silos remain in organizations today — and not only between different company departments, but within IT itself. This is why one thing that CIOs need to be thinking about is how the big  data/analytics, high-performance computing (HPC) people will work with the other data center functions that revolve around systems of record. HPC and big data are decidedly different animals. New metrics must be defined and monitored to determine if they are working. There can also be resentment, because these analytical experts will be extremely well paid, and may even be "off the charts" when their compensation is compared with compensation of other senior IT staff because of market and skill pressures. For the CIO, introducing, integrating, and being able to retain analytics workers when IT worker silos and compensation resentment exist can become a daunting task.

Our market research analyst stayed with us two years, but in the end we couldn't retain him. The major issue was that he just didn't feel comfortable being torn between Marketing and IT, nor did he feel that he had a definite work identity. We learned from this and "did it right" the next time.

Today, it is even more essential for CIOs to get the proper role integration and teamwork in place for analytics workers in the data center before they get there. This would seem to be a no-brainer, yet a surprising number of organizations have yet to consider the cultural issues.


Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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