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For many IT professionals, big data may seem like a looming threat, aiming to make their traditional technical operations into a thing of the past and leave them abandoned and jobless by the side of the hypothetical desert road.

In fact, earlier this year Gartner predicted that by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO, and that technology spending outside of IT will rise from 20% of total technology spending in 2000 to almost 90% by 2020.

Just like animals threatened with extinction, there is another choice here for IT professionals: to evolve. IT organizations must realize that they are on the forefront of a huge change in information technology; by transforming their function from just operation controls to big data analysis, IT may become even more indispensable.

Forbes reports that in a recent article in the Sloan Management Review, Tom Davenport, Paul Barth and Randy Bean recommended “moving analytics from IT into core business and operational functions,” arguing that “the traditional role of IT—automating business processes—imposes precise requirements, adherence to standards and controls on changes,” whereas the advantages of big data and data science are based on “discovery and agility—the ability to mine existing and new data
sources continuously for patterns, events and opportunities.”

This new focus on big data analysis and discovery should inspire IT professionals to redefine their industry. “The chief digital officer will prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead,” Gartner’s David Willis told Forbes, “and IT leaders have the opportunity to be the leaders who will define it.”

Forbes lines out the possibilities:

“The IT organization and CIOs may become irrelevant in the digital economy. Or they may rise with the big data wave to lead the digital businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. CIOs opportunity to demonstrate leadership that is based on understanding of what data, big or small, is all about—its management, its analysis, transformation of could use this big deep experience with and and its use in the service of innovation, the driving force of any enterprise. Strengthened by the discipline of antifragility, CIOs may become Chief Innovation Officers.”