Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) have captured the imaginations of business and technical leaders alike: computers besting human world-champions in board games with more positions than there are atoms in the universe, mastering popular video games, and helping diagnose skin cancer. The AI techniques underlying these breakthroughs are finding diverse application across every industry. Early adopters are seeing results; particularly encouraging is that AI is starting to transform processes in established industries, from retail to financial services to manufacturing.

However, an organization’s effectiveness in applying these breakthroughs is anchored in the basics: a disciplined foundation in capturing, preparing and analyzing data. Data scientists spend up to 80% of their time on the “data wrangling,” “data munging” and “data janitor” work required well before the predictive capabilities promised by AI can be realized.

Capturing, preparing and analyzing data creates the foundation for successful AI initiatives. To help business and IT leaders create this virtuous cycle, Google Cloud has prepared a CIO’s guide to data analytics and machine learning that outlines key enabling technologies at each step. Crucially, the guide illustrates how managed cloud services greatly simplify the journey — regardless of an organization’s maturity in handling big data.

This is important because, for many companies, the more fundamental levels of data management present a larger challenge than new capabilities like AI. “Management teams often assume they can leapfrog best practices for basic data analytics by going directly to adopting artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies,” noted Oliver Wyman consultants Nick Harrison and Deborah O’Neill in a recent Harvard Business Review article (aptly titled If Your Company Isn’t Good at Analytics, It’s Not Ready for AI). “Like it or not, you can’t afford to skip the basics.

Building on new research and Google’s own contributions to big data since the beginning, this guide walks readers through each step in the data management cycle, illustrating what’s possible alongside examples.

Specifically, the CIO’s guide to data analytics and machine learning is designed to help business and IT leaders address some of the essential questions companies face in modernizing data strategy:

For my most important business processes, how can I capture raw data to ensure a proper foundation for future business questions? How can I do this cost-effectively?

  • What about unstructured data outside of my operational/transactional databases: raw files, documents, images, system logs, chat and support transcripts, social media?
  • How can I tap the same base of raw data I’ve collected to quickly get answers as new business questions arise?
  • Rather than processing historical data in batch, what about processes where I need a real-time view of the business? How can I easily handle data streaming in real time?
  • How can I unify the scattered silos of data across my organization to provide a current, end-to-end view? What about data stored off-premises in the multiple cloud and SaaS providers I work with?
  • How can I disseminate this capability across my organization — especially to business users, not just developers and data scientists?

Because managed cloud services deal with an organization's sensitive data, security is a top consideration at each step of the data management cycle. From data ingestion into the cloud, followed by storage, preparation and ongoing analysis as additional data flows in, techniques like data encryption and the ability to connect your network directly to Google’s reflect data security best practices that keep data assets safe as they yield insights.

Wherever your company is on its path to data maturity, Google Cloud is here to help. We welcome the opportunity to learn more about your challenges and how we can help you unlock the transformational potential of data.