Businesses need CDOs to manage data deluge

by Sohini Bagchi    Jun 12, 2013

data officer

We are living in the era of Information explosion, where enterprises are striving to manage data from various sources – from social media, internet of things, inexpensive sensors and many more. Experts believe enterprise data demands to be managed with the same diligence just like other enterprise assets to gain business insight. While many organizations are increasingly realizing this, very few businesses, however, are equipped to methodically exploit this plethora of data types and translate that knowledge into meaningful business insight. Even fewer have the dedicated thought leaders to effectively manage their information and data assets. Experts believe that companies need a chief data officer (CDO) who can be the champion of enterprise data and can provide the leadership required to effectively manage data assets.

Current data dilemma

In a recent report, Gartner mentions firms that have adopted information as strategy generally have in place a CDO or a CIO who handles information policy, issues pertaining to new information acquisition or for information asset business exploitation. However, the number is very less with 10 per cent of today’s enterprises having a ‘real’ information strategy in place. One of the biggest challenges organizations face is identifying who in the organization is ultimately responsible for managing all this information, states the research firm. Currently, the problem with most companies are its either ‘everyone’ or ‘no-one’ and as a result the complexity, risk and opportunity presented by the information explosion keeps on expanding, says the research firm.

It has been observed that most CIOs do not take the responsibility on information policy. As a result of this, enterprises will increasingly see the emergence of a new position in the C-suite – the CDO – to fill this gap. While talking to CEOs and other decision makers in organizations, Partha Iyengar, country manager for Research, India at Gartner observes that the appointment of a CDO often relates to an awakening within the senior leadership of the firm regarding the importance of information management and the current lack of ownership and focus on it.

The most enlightened boards and CEOs are beginning to understand the value potential — sometimes appointing CDOs to exploit information assets more aggressively.
-Partha Iyengar, country manager for Research, India at Gartner

“In order to be effective, the CDO needs to have the full backing of his C-suite counterparts and should be provided the authority and resources to execute strategic data initiatives. The CDO must also possess a particular blend of technical skills, business acumen and political savvy too, in order to have a direct impact on risk management, business performance and long-term strategy,” mentions Rich Cohen, an eminent researcher at Deloitte in his recent blog post. But he also recommends that before instituting a CDO function, companies should set clear enterprise data management objectives in the context of a larger business problem.

Information centric strategies

Gartner analysts believe that ‘information as strategy’ is still evolving and may take some time to become mainstream. Iyengar believes the recent trends such as Internet of things and social internet will continue to cause information explosion. “In this way, competition will increasingly be defined by differential access, control and value recognition and timelyexploitation of information,” he says. Therefore, enterprises should keep exploring options like how will the organization search, discover, conjoin and secure the new datasets and information streams that are becoming available, what support is in place for information led innovation and how will they engineer the social and legal permissions needed to use information without it seeming like spying, privacy invasion or unfairness and similar queries. Iyenger believes that exploring these options will enable business leaders configure and re-skill their organizations for greater competencies and success.

In order to break through to higher levels of corporate enlightenment on information centricity, Gartner recommends that firms need to visualize what they already have to become more information centric. With the help of emerging technologies, companies that find better ways to represent complex information will win in better internal decision making capability and in better service products to their customers. Secondly, senior leaders in enterprises should create a visionary scenario for the use of some new kind of information and then plot its future. Finally, leveraging ‘external exposure’ such as peers, competitors, press, stakeholders, consultants etc. alongside the insiders and then linking these data sets in new and innovative combinations can help a company create even more business insights.

Cohen too states that CDOs in this respect should carefully evaluate characteristics such as size, footprint, organization structure and maturity of data management practices to arrive at the strategic way to get the most of the data.