Big Data

The CDO: Helping to Harness the Power of Data

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Data used to be viewed by businesses as exhaust — a necessary but relatively useless output of projects that became a nuisance to store and maintain. Advances in analytical, and more recently cognitive, technology have changed that mindset for good. Data is now an asset that can be applied to benefit all aspects of an enterprise.

But what technologies can be applied to best take advantage of data? To extract insights that can help make more informed business decisions? What job functions can data be applied to? How can data be applied in these functions? These are the questions posed to and pondered by the Chief Data Officer (CDO).

Unlike the Chief Information Officer, who is responsible for planning, deploying and managing an organization’s technical infrastructure, the CDO is charged with creating and driving plans that best integrate data into an enterprise’s overall monetization strategy. A few functions include:

Trusted data. The kinds of datasets companies store and leverage vary by function, but in many cases the same data is required for different tasks. Units within enterprises pull, curate, and analyze the datasets individually, which results in conflicting and uncertain outcomes. It is the Chief Data Officer’s responsibility to create a single trusted source for the cloud and cognitive backbone, so that functions across the enterprise can access the same data to get reliable results. This central data source eliminates the time and resources required for different areas in a single company to individually govern and analyze data.

Data privacy and security. Increasingly corporations are the target of malware and cyber security attacks that result in the capture and possible exposure of sensitive corporate and customer data, lost revenue and litigation. A primary function of the CDO is to architect and maintain a structure of privacy and policy for all enterprise data. In addition to data, the CDO oversees the significant culture change required during an enterprise transformation.

Creating value through analytics. The troves of structured and unstructured data being amassed are filled with extremely valuable insights that, if culled, can help organizations make more strategic business decisions to increase business performance, improve efficiencies, lower costs, etc. And with the advent of new tools and services, analytics is no longer the sole domain of the statistician. Analytics functions are being used and leveraged by more and more people across job functions, from marketing, to HR, to finance, and more. But for analytics to be truly leveraged, the underlying data the system pulls from must not only be accurate, trusted, and complete, but also allow for intelligent linkage of entities and concepts. The Chief Data Officer oversees how to create trusted data that the business can leverage to produce the most effective outcomes.

Some responsibilities of the Chief Data Officer are clear: creating the data strategy, being an agent of culture change, and setting standards for data integrity. This role is growing rapidly as data volumes continue to grow. Smartphone traffic will overtake PC traffic by 2021[1], with nearly 3 billion predicted social media users in 2020[2]. This dynamic combination will enable more people to create more data than ever before, even by today’s standards.

There is power in data, but also great responsibility. Now is the time for enterprises to take charge on both of those fronts, and establishing data leadership headed by a Chief Data Officer will help accelerate the journey.

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[1] http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/vni-hyperconnectivity-wp.html

[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/

Global Chief Data Officer, IBM

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