The emerging role of the Chief Data Officer

The emerging role of the Chief Data Officer

By Mark Bentkower, CISSP, Director of Systems Engineering ASEAN, CommVault Systems

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The new digital landscape is reshaping IT roles. With the rise of The Internet of Things (IoT), a sea of potential social network information, and a new generation of sophisticated web analytics tools, there is increasing need to be more selective about data, and to store only the data that really matters to an organization. Digitalization creates an even greater need for an integrated information management strategy as business units rush to harness the digital opportunities of big data.

With organizations coming to realise that data science matters, retaining, accessing, protecting and ultimately deleting content in compliance with evolving regulations is a top-of-mind business concern.

At the same time, IT teams are also coming to realise the need for a leader whose role is to understand and advocate on behalf of the data. This new task however cannot be undertaken by the CIO, who is already overwhelmed with facilitating and managing digital innovation and transition.

Gartner predicts that 25 percent of organizations will have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) by 2017, with that figure rising to 50 percent in heavily regulated industries such as banking and insurance. In fact, the analyst firm found that 20 percent of CEOs in large organizations already have in place a data officer to lead their organization’s digital innovation[1].

Getting the most business value out of the data

It is estimated that poor data quality costs an average organization $13.5 million per year, and yet data governance problems — which all organizations suffer from — are worsening[2]. While the concept of data management has been around for a couple of years now, data is still not sufficiently managed as an asset.

This calls for an investment in people who can actually nurture and manage that data. This is where the CDO comes in. His role is to build a governance plan in order to effectively keep track of data assets: where they are stored, who has access, and how often they are cleansed and checked. The CDO can put data quality processes in place to better manage the purity of critical business data, and he can make sure the business is not paying to store duplicated, old, unverified or corrupted data. The end result is a cleaner, clearer dataset for everyone in the business, and a more secure, timely and effective management of data for the customer or client.

The CDO is also responsible for enabling organizations to manage data as a corporate asset. This means being responsible for how companies use and extract value from data, including how they protect data privacy and maintain compliance with laws related to data integrity and accessibility. The CDO needs to create order from chaos and get the most business value from information the company possesses to improve overall insight and competitiveness.

Connecting with customers

The CDO has to be able to appreciate the importance of connecting technology-based processes that operate organizations with the ‘human element’ – typically ignored yet crucial information that lies in unstructured data, often in social networks. In order to achieve this, the CDO will need a “whole-brain” approach that lowers the barrier between useful information and action.

Research shows organizations that leverage big data to connect with customers make more money[3]. In fact, using data can result in smarter business decisions and more revenue for companies of various types and sizes.

Ultimately, data should be managed as a product. It is the CDO’s responsibility to identify new sources of data, as well as determine how to package existing data from a multitude of sources to create value-add or even commercial offerings. Making smart use of information that is created and stored every day will enable organizations to unlock more opportunities and better differentiate themselves from the competition.

Becoming a data-driven organization is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Making decisions based on data-driven approaches not only increases the accuracy of results but also provides consistency in how the results are interpreted and fed back into the business.

Data has the potential to change an organization. Today’s businesses need a new ‘data hero’. As the information advocate, the Chief Data Officer is that driver of change.

[1] Gartner, Feb 2015: ‘Gartner Says CIOs and CDOs Must ‘Digitally Remaster’ Their Organizations’

[2] Gartner, Feb 2015: ‘Gartner Says CIOs and CDOs Must ‘Digitally Remaster’ Their Organizations’

[3] Datameer, ‘Unlocking Big Data tune into the customer journey’