For those of you fortunate enough to have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) in your organization – whether pegged with that formal title or operating under a similar pseudonym – it’s time to give thanks. Data has become a new natural resource for enterprises. And businesses that can effectively architect, analyze and act on it are finding new ways to compete.
We spent a sizable part of 2014 talking with and studying the leaders that are tackling this burgeoning opportunity with the IBM Center for Applied Insights. And as we enter the Thanksgiving season here in the United States, it seems like an opportune time to thank these trailblazers.
To all the CDOs out there, thank you for:
1. The “aha!” moments – Thank you for using data and analytics to reframe problems in a totally new light, surface questions your business never thought to ask and identify opportunities your colleagues never could have imagined. As one insurance CDO explained, “I was brought in really to change the way that the business works, moving us from an intuition-based organization to hear what the data is telling us.” Thanks for making it possible for your business to hear the surprises inside its data. (By the way, did you know that data really can make a sound? Check out the tunes from the U.S. Open tennis match.)
2. Freedom from silos – Too often, an enterprise’s data stays stuck in silos. And analytics are confined to the function that “owns” the data instead of fueling organization-wide discovery and innovation. Thanks for crushing walls, so that data can unite and become the corporate asset it should be. One government CDO said that “the true worth of modern analytics comes when you free the data from underneath the silos that collect it.” Thanks for showing your business the value of integrated data.
3. Speaking our language – We appreciate that, while you may be fluent in z-scores, k-means clustering and Hadoop, your focus stays squarely on business outcomes. Thanks for looking past the questions your company’s leaders are asking to the underlying business objectives they need to accomplish. As one telecommunications CDO told us, he’s “bridging that chasm between the business and the technology” by helping “marketing folks, financial folks and sales teams understand the power of data and analytics.” Thanks for minding the gap and making a business impact.
4. Tough love – Standards matter. Thanks for consistently driving “data integrity, reusability and protection” (as one CDO put it) even when that may not be the easiest, quickest or most popular approach with various business units. Enterprises need a single point of accountability to insist on enterprise-wide strategies and achieving the “greater good”. According to one insurance CIO, “A CDO should help in a systematic, institutional way so that whatever we do we’re on a path to sustainable, ongoing competitive advantage.” Thanks for keeping everyone on the same path.
5. Teaching to fish – With the rising demand for analytical insights, you could have probably built an army of data scientists. Brilliant people who could feed the business with insights for a day. Instead, you’re enabling leaders to serve themselves, building intuitive platforms and coaching them on how to become smarter “consumers” of data. Collectively, you’re helping create Generation D – data-rich, analytically driven enterprises that are raising the data literacy rate among the analytic laity. We’re grateful you’re investing.
And while we’re doling out all these words of gratitude, we’d be remiss to not thank the CEOs that hired all these data czars in the first place. Thanks for expecting more from your data. We’re grateful you chose to invest in this new leadership position. And to borrow some words from one executive we spoke with, we’re glad you were dissatisfied with “data as a project” and are championing “data as a way of life.”
Read the IBM Center for Applied Insights study, Your Chief Data Officer: Reimaging the business of data
Learn about the 123s of CDOs
Learn more about the Chief Data Officer (CDO)