CIOs say ciao to CAO and CPSO

If there weren't already enough three-letter acronyms used to describe the roles of senior management, the business analysts of today will be vying for another - chief analytics officer, or CAO - with a seat on the boards of tomorrow.

The CAO is a highly skilled individual who understands the importance of technology, information, and how the two combine to improve business marketing and performance, according to Marcel van Rooyen, media liaison officer of the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA).

An advisory manager for consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Van Rooyen said business analysts are ideal candidates to fill the technology and business "hybrids" role, as reported by Computerworld (October 26, p1), because they have acquired the necessary skills mix.

"In 10 years we will see chief analytics officers on boards bridging the role of the CIO and CMO," Van Rooyen boldly declared.

"The core competencies of both will merge to form the CAO because we are the most strategically placed to plug the gap."

He believes there is more potential to bring IT and the business together through analytics. Online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines the role as "a senior manager responsible for the analysis of data" and says the CAO's position is "similar" to the CIO but with an increased focus on "generating and analyzing information" rather than "maintaining and communicating information". Essentially it is a role that focuses on providing input into operational decisions on the basis of analysis.

The institute's message to IT is that there is more information to be analyzed than senior management knows about now.

"IT people are gatekeepers and aren't [necessarily] aware of what can be done with data; they often say it's too messy," Van Rooyen said. "By doing more analytics they will promote their political importance in the organization [and] it will be easier for IT to convince management to spend money on projects."

IDC Australia senior IT management analyst Peter Hind said although he likes the idea of a CAO "as it highlights the problem solving and re-engineering capabilities of IT", he doubts that it will supersede the "moniker of CIO" as the favoured title for the head of IT.

"Analytics implies a process, albeit one that helps with problem solving. As such, chief analytics officer sounds a bit nebulous," Hind said. "Perhaps we might see the emergence of the title CPSO: chief problem solving officer."

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