The Expanding Role of the Chief Data Officer

Image credit: iStockphoto/Giii

The chief data officer (CDO) role has rapidly evolved over the past few years, from being a governance leader to data science and AI expert to digital transformation leader.

But then came COVID-19, and the CDO was required to prioritize the creation of real-time value from data over digital transformation. In the face of significant financial instability, driving new revenue opportunities is essential to survival and later growth.

Using data to have a clearer understanding of customers, employees, and the market is now critical. The time is now for CDOs to drive immediate and straightforward changes in shifting markets. The three key areas that should be a top priority for CDOs right now include:

1. Make data available to the entire enterprise

Most organizations face a dilemma: vast data volumes yet limited ability to determine which data is valuable and turn it into insights and action. But much of the data available isn’t analytics-ready or accessible. And data that could have the most value often has vague or complex security rules that block access and transformation.

COVID-19 is not the best time to discover that data is unavailable or that well-intentioned governance policies limit the ability to safely and respectfully distribute it for timely decision-making. One of the pandemic data lessons is that careful planning to tag and secure data assets with explicit emergency protocols for access must be done well in advance of the moment the data is requested.

The CDO must champion the case for a data catalog to enable analytics on-demand. The ability to onboard, profile, describe, secure, and potentially prepare data quickly is key to meeting the business’ needs when it truly needs them, not later.

2. Data literacy must start from the top

COVID-19 has reinforced the need for data literacy across the entire organization. Helping the c-suite lead from the top down should be a core focus for the CDO to create widespread data culture. The CDO has a central role in guiding the various departments towards cultivating data literate employees. This can create an engaged and loyal workforce that feels empowered and not intimated by data when done well.

Employees who are comfortable working with data help the business differentiate its offerings and provide superior service, a critical competitive edge in an aggressive global economy. According to a Qlik report, large enterprises with strong corporate data literacy deliver up to 5% higher enterprise value ranging between USD 320 and USD 534 million. So there’s a monetary incentive for organizations to become data literate.

Data literacy’s importance is more apparent than ever. CDOs that create an opportunity, through both technology and training, to increase data literacy across the organization will help drive efficiencies and uncover new opportunities that can fuel recovery.

3. Analytics insights require the need for speed

For a data culture to truly thrive, CDOs must remove the entrenched roadblocks that hinder the creation of real-time insights. CDOs are taking a serious look at DataOps, the emerging practice that takes a DevOps approach to data by addressing the people, process, and technology challenges to creating a data culture.

The CDO should lead the organization in asking several questions: Does the data analytics perform in real-time? Is it clearly and seamlessly embedded in applications? Does analytics have a measurable impact? Do we need to adjust our approach based on new market conditions? Is there a specific concept or deployment option that should be explored? A closed-loop process will provide a critical link to the non-technical workforce and allow for precise measurement.

There are significant cultural, procedural, political, and technical challenges in achieving a data culture. However, COVID-19 has shone a light on the power and importance of data. CDOs should seize on this increased awareness of the value of data to drive real process and technology changes, ones that can help lead the company out of the pandemic and beyond to growth.

Joe DosSantos, chief data officer at Qlik, authored this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Giii