When it comes to appointing chief data officers, federal agencies have always been behind the curve of the private sector. Since industry started adding the position in 2002, companies have learned the importance of first defining exactly what an organization wants the CDO to do and how to measure results.
Such findings in a survey of large organizations by consultants NewVantage Partners revealed two major issues for agencies to keep in mind. Tom Davenport, a President’s distinguished professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College in Massachusetts and a collaborator on the survey, said that despite all the progress and use of data technology, most organizations are not data driven.
The other concern is a lack of consensus around what type of person is needed as a CDO. Davenport said the results were equally split between the desire for an external change agent, and for someone who understands the organization well and can help to transform it from inside. Furthermore, Davenport said only about 27% of respondents said the job is working well within their organization.
CDOs originated in the banking sector, namely at Capital One.
“And the initial focus was, to use a sports analogy, on defense. It was how do we prevent breaches and hacks of our data? How do we address any regulatory issues? How do we just not get in trouble with data?” he said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.
Since then, Davenport said, many financial services organizations have realized that a defense-related approach is worthy of bringing on an specialized executive, resulting in more companies naming chief information security officers and creating an offense-oriented approach to data. He described it as “scoring points” with data, making customers happy and selling more of the product or service to them.
Two-thirds of survey respondents said they had a CDO, but those positions can have about seven possible jobs.
“So I think the emerging most popular definition of the role is a combination of data and analytics — a chief data and analytics officer as they’re called. And many organizations and a lot of companies have decided, well, that’s the best way to harness these possibilities of offense, not just kind of managing the data internally, but figuring out how you use it to create more insights through analytics and artificial intelligence, and so on,” he said. “So that one I think, is growing most rapidly. Certainly in the private sector there’s an interest in monetizing data.”
Davenport called that role a data entrepreneur, and there’s also the data developer, who takes responsibility for developing data and analytics intensive application. The data defender role is more oriented toward security, preventing breaches and hacks, regulatory issues, etc.
A data architect role primarily makes sure data is accessible, integrated and high quality with little duplication get duplicated too much with an organization. A role that has lost popularity is that of data governance, or attempting to get people on the nontechnology side of an organization to manage data effectively. But growing in usage, Davenport said, is the data ethicist role, citing MasterCard’s chief data officer — a lawyer with an ethics and privacy-oriented background — as an example.
“But not too many organizations have created that yet. Maybe they will in the future as we become more interested in the in the ethics of data,” he said.