Insights

7 Reasons Why the CDO is Here to Stay

A couple weeks ago, I got to attend the 10th Annual MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium – long title, but really interesting event. After spending 2 ½ days with Chief Data Officers and other data-oriented leaders, including a few CIOs, personally I had a much better understanding of the emergent CDO and the role they are attempting to play within their organizations. Given this, I would like to share a few insights I took away from the MITCDOIQ symposium and why the CDO is here to stay.

1. CDOs are a quasi-business function that is holistically interested in “all things data”.

CDOs speak openly about establishing data governance and quality functions, as well as the need for a data lake and advanced analytics.

2. CDOs connect data to business value.

While CDOs assert claim to data governance, data management, data science and data strategy; they seem focused upon the data strategies that will drive value to their business.

CDOs say they want to move their organizations from “descriptive to predictive analytics cultures”. They want to find the small variances that together predict something big.

In healthcare, for example, they worry about making healthcare data actionable for physicians—they want to get to what they call “predictable clinical support”. Similarly in life sciences, they see data as enabling an era of precision medicine – where medicines could be targets to a segment or even a person.

Regardless of industry, they all stress the importance of creating “data stories”.

3. CDOs make their organizations smarter faster.

This is a big difference with IT departments. However, when you are sitting in the business as most CDOs are, you have the opportunity to be a business person and worry about the time to a business outcome first versus cost. This fact has limited the value that CIOs and IT can deliver.

4. CDOs play offense and defense.

Tom Davenport, a Fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and Senior Advisor to Deloitte Analytics, used these words, but they fit well with the entire CDO event. Davenport said that defense is about security, privacy, integrity, quality, regulatory compliance and governance.

He said offense, on the other hand, is about analytics, insights, digital transformation, data products and customer relationships.

Others participating in the symposium called out control – data ownership, data quality, info lifecycle management, info security, policies and standards, technology and architecture.

Their second item was about using data to drive business growth. It was claimed that data has one of three value propositions – responding to regulation, conducting today’s business and fueling the change need for business growth. Growth data is seen as needing to relate to strategic intent, digital activity, social, mobile, real-time location, sensors outputs and IoT.

5. CDOs are focused on building data-centric organizations.

In terms of quantifying the potential impact of being data centric, Doug Laney suggested his data at Gartner finds that info-centric companies have market values two-to-three times traditional companies, and info product companies have market values five times traditional companies.

6. CDOs build trusted relationships in addition to trusted data.

Symposium speakers openly discussed the difficulty bringing their organizations together and the potential for burnout during this process.

CDOs acknowledge that data is a corporate asset owned by the corporation, not by a business function. They said that breaking down silos is harder politically than technically.

Customers expect trusted data, so there is a need for verified data.

There was interesting agreement around the data lake. They said governance is not needed until teams want to share data or use it for a business decision. Once you are building external visualization, you need governance.

It was claimed that CDOs are all about business metadata, because they want data shared across teams. One CDO said he had a philosophy there should be only one data lake even when businesses has innovation workspaces in Hadoop. Those workspaces should go away at the end of the project.

7. CDOs can help the CIOs better align with the business.

There was explicit discussion of how CDOs can help CISOs and CIOs build better business relationships. If you have a CDO at your firm, you shouldn’t resist it. You should work to build this relationship and use it to change your position at the organization.

Parting remarks

As you can see, CDOs solve different problems than the CIO. They are trying to align the business function and to assemble data-driven organizations for their companies. These are their goals, and they are worthy of pursuit. If you want to learn more about CDOs, please join us on September 13 to hear Gene Leganza, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester discuss independent research that validates the CDO role and mission.


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Article written by Myles Suer
Image credit by Getty Images, Cultura, Monty Rakusen
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