CIOs who care about digital business– which means pretty much any CIO out there – increasingly will care about the Semantic Web. At this month’s upcoming MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, they should have an opportunity to explore the intersection between the two in some more depth – and their changing role in this evolving digital business world.

As Graham G. Rong, Chair at MIT Sloan CIO Symposium sees it, CIOs and other corporate leaders will need to look beyond the strategies or best practices that have worked in the past, which may not be adequate to the demands of the future.  Consider the virtual nature of social networks, which are virtually without control but data-rich, and how CIOs as change agents will need to understand, develop and make good use of new ways and  tools for collecting and analyzing such digital information.

In the rapidly evolving digital business world, companies will be forced to become much more sophisticated in their methods for capturing, storing and analyzing data, so that they can anticipate and adapt proactively to market changes by looking beyond the competitors and incorporate shifts in the economic landscape, changes in the workforce and customer profiles, and the evolution of business and social environments. That starts with thinking holistically about acquiring actionable knowledge, Rong says. “The collective intelligence they gather to make strategic decisions represents an entire body of information—insights not just from the consumers, but rather from key business influencers, including partners, buyers, suppliers, regulators, and special interest groups,” he says.

But gaining true competitive advantage, however, “is determined by how well companies actually leverage the insights they gain from the information they are collecting to drive business value. This is determined, in addition to the emphasis by the senior business leaders, technically by 1) how much data is available; 2) how easy is the data accessible; and 3) how much the link or relationship has been built among the data, each of which is supported by the semantic web.”

Today, organizations are investing millions of dollars in their data infrastructure, and they do indeed get a lot of data. But, he points out, “only 5 percent of the information is realy used. Ninety-five percent just sits there, some of it never even touched,” he says. “The semantic web can harness the business analytics, to leverage the information CIOs have been collecting, about customers, partners and competitors, and drive more business value from it.”

And yes, the cloud will have quite a lot to do with supporting the next wave of digital business, but optimizing its resources for use still needs some finessing. Here’s where the application of the Linked Data concept can help, connecting nodes, setting up relationships and priorities, both so that service providers can optimize their resources by predictive use of capacity and so their clients can best leverage the resources they’ve reserved. Developing ontologies to describe different resources and management policies on the cloud will be critical.

“Through the intelligent mash-up based on contextual information and semantic resource description, the semantic web enables business users to have an information dashboard of data — from various sources of different types and locations in the cloud,” he explains. “Resource virtualization based on these merged ontologies, interoperable among virtual organizations, supports the monitoring and selection of resources.” Resources can be searched and scheduled based on available ontologies, customer requests and job priorities.” The approach ultimately will allow a grid resource description of resource and relations among the resources semantically,” Rong says.

The Beyond the Crossroads conference takes place May 18.