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Future Slant: Analytics

Diana G. Oblinger and Joanne Dehoney

This is the second in a blog series describing five “metatrends,” drawn from a review of articles in industry IT press, that affect CIOs in all IT sectors.:

Each post in the Future Slant blog will describe one of these trends, suggesting implications for higher education.


Analytics is the use of data, statistical analysis, and explanatory and predictive models to gain insights and to act on complex issues. Analytics has already transformed other sectors. In “10 Predictions for What the CIO Role Will Look Like in 2020,” John Brandon quotes CIO Oliver T. Bussmann:  “[CIOs need] to earn a place in the C-suite by looking into the future of where the business is going, and determining the right technology roadmap to enable new business models, to improve margin, or otherwise give their company a leg up on the competition. In many cases this will mean leveraging in-memory computing and analytics to react to and capitalize on trends in real-time.”

In “The Do-or-Die Questions Boards Should Ask about Technology,” Paul Willmott asks: “What will it take to exceed our customers’ expectations in a digital world? Customers are being educated by e-commerce leaders like Amazon and Apple to expect an ultra-convenient experience, personalized in real time.”

Finally, as the IBM business report The Future of Business Analytics Is Now! concluded: “The pressures on organizations are at a point where analytics has evolved from a business initiative to a business imperative.”

It is unclear whether analytics will be under the CIO’s purview—inside or outside of higher education. Factors that may undermine the CIO’s ability to retain control over the data enterprise include the difficulty of standing up analytics services, the potential for outsourcing, and the creation of new roles such as chief digital officer. The specialized skill sets underlying analytics do not exist in most IT—or other—units. The demand for data scientists, unstructured database specialists, and analysts is predicted to exceed the supply for years to come. In addition, those business units that have a vision and budget for analytics—for example, the marketing organization—may seek to control analytics.

“Big data,” or analytics, is impacting higher education, in theory enabling deep personalization of the learner experience and better decision making through business intelligence (BI), among other benefits. Many higher education CIOs have thus embraced the idea that analytics has a role in higher education. The challenges inherent in the components of analytics are well documented: personnel, leadership, technical, data management, and data governance. And even as higher education grapples with the fundamental underpinnings of analytics—for example, ensuring data quality and governance—the data sources and the volume of data are exploding.

© 2014 Diana G. Oblinger and Joanne Dehoney. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License (

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