Big DataNews & AnalysisNewsletter

Why the Chief Data Officer’s Job in India Needs Greater Clarity


Chief Data Officers (CDOs) in India are facing an uphill battle in convincing their organizations on the value of data and call for greater clarity in their roles and responsibilities, according to a new study.

The report prepared by research and consultancy firm Omdia and commissioned by Qlik revealed that 72% of CDOs in India – especially in the public sector – regret not having invested more in data-driven initiatives when making mission-critical decisions before the pandemic hit. They also felt that leadership support is crucial in helping them to perform better in their role.

“The public sector CDO role is an emerging area in India, but plays a very important function in ensuring that the public sector has good data pipelines set up and can be used in times of crisis,” said Varun Babbar, Managing Director, Qlik India.

According to him, “As the world grapples with the ramifications of the new normal, it is heartening to see governments start to use data insights to create better citizen services around public health, welfare and immunization. With India prioritizing investments in technology, public sector organizations will be able to act on data and finally innovate for the public good.”

Additionally, over two thirds (68%) have yet to set up a data governance body, despite proof that such a body can build broader engagement, management support, and wider awareness of the value of data in key decision-making.

Besides organizational support, Indian CDOs cited the need for data literate staff (74%) as the top resourcing priority, followed by analytics and business intelligence technology (72%) to enable data use within their organizations. When it came to technology, key concerns cited were efficient and effective use of structured and unstructured data (48%) as well as the ability to analyse large volumes of data from multiple sources (46%). The study also found that data science (54%) and data policy (46%) skills are the most sought-after among Indian public sector organizations.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been a watershed for CDOs in APAC, prompting governments in Asia to more efficiently use data insights to create better citizen services around public health, welfare and taxation,” Kevin Noonan, Emeritus Chief Analyst at Omdia, said.

He said, “There is a pressing need to reassess the public sector organization’s technology investment to enable a suitable strategy to meet the new normal’s emerging agility and innovation requirements. However, technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Leaders must also better define and enable the CDO role to realize data-driven decision-making.”

As public sector organizations reposition themselves beyond COVID-19 in the future, data initiatives will become more strategic and outcome-focused. Key priorities going forward pointed out by Indian executives include improving data quality (62%), introducing new technologies (44%), and achieving a data strategy with a one-year action plan (40%). Additionally, when it came to data-related opportunities, 76% felt they could work towards providing data services to other public sector agencies and 72% were focused on providing management decision support.

Globally too, there are constraints on the CDO roles and responsibilities – both in the private and public domain. A NewVantage survey that polled CDOs from across the globe found that only half of chief data officers (49.5%) have primary responsibility for data within their firms, and only a third characterized the CDO role as “successful and established.” The lack of clarity may explain why many find it difficult to quantify the business value of a chief data officer, according to the study

Doug Laney, a data and analytics innovation fellow at tech consultancy West Monroe and the author of the book “Infonomics,” maintains that making a business case for the CDO is actually pretty straightforward.

Since 2018, Laney has conducted an ongoing study of more than 500 organizations exploring data management and data analytics challenges. His research shows that companies that treat data as a corporate asset and make it central to enterprise business strategy are three to four times more likely to reap the benefits of data-driven decision-making.

Depending on the business strategy, the CDO can have a wide-ranging impact, whether that’s helping to improve marketing, optimizing supply chain operations, or streamlining business processes to reduce costs. Nonetheless Laney said that organizations that allocate the right resources, influence, and authority to the CDO are four times more likely to be successful using data to transform the business.

It is clear from the above studies that CDO role needs to be defined by the objectives and priorities of the company in order to be successful. A keen understanding of business strategy and an ability to connect data to core business objectives is critical, as is proficiency in softer leadership skills, particularly in the areas of change management and communications.

Leave a Response