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Questions on CDOs and CAOs: Getting harder as the Game Evolves

Watching this year’s basketball playoffs has been rough. While most enjoy watching the games, I’m getting grilled with questions from my eight-year-old who wants to know everything about everything. Questions like: “why do some players take one foul shot and others take two?” And, “Why don’t some players play four years in college?” As basketball evolves to accommodate new rules, explaining the game to newcomers keeps getting harder.

The same is true in data and analytics. Consider the complexities and related questions that arise around the ever-evolving data landscape, such as:

  • Data lakes: Should we use them, or not?
  • Streaming data and IOT: How do they fit with our current data and analytics solutions, skill sets, etc.?
  • Containers, blockchain and unstructured data: It’s everywhere. How do we adapt to all the new techniques and data sources?
  • Artificial intelligence: The pressure is high to be up and running with AI on all fronts … and by yesterday.

This environment is leaving executives with more questions than answers. Chief among those is how to capture and manage all the data that’s now available – from more sources than ever – and meet the goals of increased revenue and operational efficiency. For many companies, this is where the roles of chief data officers (CDOs) and chief analytics officers (CAOs) come into play. These roles create order out of complexity.

In past years, discussions about CDOs and CAOs related to topics like who they should report to or what their ideal qualifications should be. And in 2019, CDOs and CAOs are going from concept to reality. In fact, according to a Gartner CDO survey,  “It’s not difficult to see how, by 2021, the office of the CDO will be a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75% of large enterprises.” 

As with any new and influential role, there is a feeling-out period in which the individual sits and listens and asks questions. CDOs and CAOs are no different.

Conversations on these roles center mainly around how to blend data management, model management, and analytics, with most wanting to learn how other organizations have been successful with these practices.

To give some perspective on what is being asked, consider that CDOs and CAOs are at different phases in their role. Many are still in the “sit and listen stage,” while others are farther along and are engaging with software vendors about how specific technologies could help them increase revenue and operational efficiency. Broken down by maturity level, here are some of common questions organizations are asking:

For companies shifting their operations from storing data to using data:

  • Is my organization using data assets to their fullest potential?
  • How do I influence the reach and scale of my impact across the organization to replicate our successes?
  • How do I maximize the value and impact of data across my organization? We have agreement on the need to change, but how?

For companies that agree about the need for change, but aren’t sure how to do it:

  • How can I make sure every department gets engaged in the data and analytics program we want to establish?
  • How can I make sure we take full advantage of the data we have but don’t fall victim to privacy regulations?
  • How can I make sure we have the IT infrastructure in place to become a data-driven company?
  • How do I develop the data and analytics culture my company needs?

For companies investing in new technology, but are not clear what all their considerations should be:

  • Do we have the skill level and talent to use the data management software?
  • Will the software vendor be able to work with our current data and architecture?
  • Will the vendor be able to offer data management and analytics on the same platform, so we can meet our top organizational goals without having to partner with numerous vendors?
  • Can this partner grow with me over the next 5 to 10 years?
  • Does this partner have demonstrated expertise in delivering value at similar businesses?

These questions range from broad to very pointed but serve as an important guide to understanding what can be achieved with a CDO or CAO. And while there may not be a guide to help teach my eight-year-old the latest enhancements to college basketball, it’s important for organizations looking to onboard a CDO and/or CAO to first identify what they’re looking to accomplish—both from a revenue and operational standpoint—and then understand how to get them going with managing their data, analytics and governance projects. Only then will organizations become truly data-driven.

About the Author

Todd Wright is the global lead for GDPR solutions at SAS. He has 15 years of experience in data management software, including sales and marketing positions at DataFlux and SAS.

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