Chief Data Officer

Chief Data Officer’s Role in Information Governance

There are many people involved in developing, implementing and managing information governance strategies in most organizations. In order to bring coherence to those efforts, many organizations are adding a new C-level position, the Chief Data Officer (CDO).

The Wikipedia definition of the Chief Data Officer:

“A chief data officer is a corporate officer responsible for enterprise-wide governance and utilization of information as an asset, via data processing, analysis, data mining, information trading, and other means. CDOs report mainly to the chief executive officer.”

Here’s another definition from The IBM Institute for Business Value:

“The Chief Data Officer is a business leader who creates and executes data and analytics strategies to drive business value. The role is responsible for defining, developing and implementing the strategy and methods by which the organization acquires, manages, analyzes and governs data. It also carries the strategic responsibility to drive the identification of new business opportunities through more effective and creative use of data.”

At a time when the amount of information an organization creates, stores and manages is growing exponentially, and with an increased effort across the globe to ensure consumer data is protected and respected above all else, the time for the CDO role has clearly arrived.

The Growth of the CDO Role in Enterprises

According to Gartner, 90% of global organizations will have a CDO in place by 2019. A 2018 study from advisory firm NewVantage Partners found that 63.4% of respondent’s firms already have a CDO.

In Gartner’s study, CDO responsibilities ranged from data management to analytics, data science, ethics, and digital transformation.

“This increased level of reported responsibility by CDOs reflects the growing importance and pervasive nature of data and analytics across organizations, and the maturity of the CDO role and function,” said  Valerie Logan, research director at Gartner.

The top responsibility identified for CDO’s in the Gartner study was “defining data and analytics strategy for the organization.”

The NewVantage study had similar results:

  • 44.4% said the primary responsibility is to “develop” the data and analytics strategy for the company
  • 26.7% said the primary responsibility was to “coordinate” data initiatives
  • 20% said the primary was to “lead” data initiatives

As part of the work involved with defining a data strategy, CDO’s must get control of and secure data properly. If you’re dealing with regulations such as GDPR, NYDFS and other similar regulations you are keenly aware of how important it is to not only understand what data you have and where, but also to ensure that data is secure from outside (and inside) threats.

Once that control and security are in place, CDO’s can look at making it available to people throughout the organization to leverage for competitive advantage and better decision-making. This might include providing analytics tools that everyone can use, not just technical data analysts.

“At companies across the globe, the masses have data access and want more from it. The need for self-service is very real, but behind that, the importance of governing data to avoid incorrect reporting becomes an even larger need.” Kimberly Whitler, in a Forbes article.

What are the key expectations for the CDO?

“By 2020, 50% of leading organizations will have a CDO with similar levels of strategy influence and authority as their CIO,” said Doug Laney, vice president, and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

With such a mix of responsibilities, expectations, and level of influence can vary widely for a CDO and will depend on how others perceive their role in the organization.

Gartner outlined key expectations for today’s CDO as:

  • Assessing external opportunities and threats and bringing them in the business strategy process, along with building and managing relationships with external parties.
  • Developing new data and analytics solutions that will help the organization compete in new ways.
  • Acting as a thought leader/advisor on emerging digital models and playing a role in creating the digital vision for the enterprise.

The key will be to help an organization successfully own and control their information. And with that information spread across disparate silos, it’s not an easy job.

Tips for Getting Started

Amy O’Connor, chief data and information officer at Cloudera, provided a few pointers to help CDO’s get started.

First, she said you have to think big, looking at those strategic initiatives that will help the business transform faster. She points out that initiatives focused on improving customer experience, building connected product and services and ensuring compliance are the ones the CDO should look at first.

Her next two tips are ones that we at Everteam subscribe to and recommend to our customers.

  • “Start Smart” – focus on a piece of the puzzle, a particular type of data or a department, or a project to get some early wins that demonstrate value early.
  • “Iterate often” – Agility is key because it enables you to continually add – more data types, more departments, more projects.

Let’s step back just a bit and wrap that advice into an overall strategy:

  • Define your high-level strategy and break it into two components: getting control of your information and taking advantage of your information. Each component requires a different approach and set of processes.
  • For each approach, define the sub-strategy and processes that need to happen.
  • Outline the projects you need to do that you have identified to date, noting the quick wins that will help you get buy-in for the overall strategy.
  • Identify talent that will work with you to implement your projects and overall plans, usually from different groups across the organization – business, compliance, legal, records, etc.. A well rounded cross-organizational team is critical.
  • Research and identify the tools you will need to implement your strategy. In some cases, one tool can provide support across multiple strategies.
  • Communicate clearly and often and put in place a plan that will ensure everyone is leveraging the work your team does to get control of your information.

The CDO is an important role in information governance strategies, leading the charge on data understanding and management, as well as data insights and analysis. We’ve talked about several information governance use cases where the CDO could play a lead role – like data remediation and cognitive search. Learn more about those use cases and others here.