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Top five questions for Chief Data Officers in 2019

Portfolio Marketing Leader, WorldWide, IBM

It’s the time of the year to step back, evaluate what worked, what did not and what to do differently to make things better personally and professionally. The same applies to businesses.

In the age of digital transformation and heightened levels of compliance, success hinges on one of the most valuable tangible resources that can give businesses a lasting competitive advantage over rivals: trusted, business-ready data. Here’s why.

Business is about customers. How much do you know about them?

For any business model to work, it must meet its buyers’ needs profitably and responsibly. That hinges on trusted data about who customers are, their needs, current satisfaction, dissatisfaction points and rivals waiting a click of a button away. It’s important to have a 360-degree, unified view of customers’ data from any touch point.

Business is about operations. Do you have integrated data to operate?

Digital transformation is enabling organizations to achieve continuous or breakthrough operational improvements. Ideally, they’re doing both at the same time if the business has organizational ambidexterity.

Questions organizations ask are related to satisfying clients’ needs more profitably: reducing or avoiding cost, reducing operational or compliance risks, charting a new course with new value chains, or applying different business models and innovating. Success depends on streamlining data operations with integrated data flow among all business functions, providing a complete and consistent business view to business functions at any point in time. Business functions will continue to create information islands that are a function of the organizational structure. Businesses should find out how to integrate and have a master view of data.

Business is about agility. Is your data business ready?

The pace of the business has exponentially increased and will continue to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. Buyers have many options in front of them, and the barriers to switching to a competitor are getting lower. How fast you meet your buyers' needs with no trade-off on quality, price, or personalization hinges on not only how much you know about them, how lean and agile your operations are, and how fast you can use your data to support the business.

To act at the pace of the business, data should be governed throughout its lifecycle, meaning that it’s discovered, cataloged, turned into business terms, protected, in compliance with regulations and yet ready for any immediate business use. Success relies on how modern your data and application architecture are and how much you can automate using technologies such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Business is about a point of differentiation. What is yours?

With the advance of multicloud environments and digitization, many businesses are modernizing their applications and enterprise architectures, as well as turning to ML and AI to operate faster and better than their rivals. In the age of commoditization of several of these technologies, success depends on providing solutions with a clear point of differentiation that is valuable, rare, not easily imitated and hard to substitute.

Many organizations found data is one of those valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable levers to differentiate themselves from the pack. Working with solution providers providing modern technology enablers such as ML data discovery and cataloging automation can differentiate the best use of data as an asset and create new blue oceans for the business.

Business is about differentiated value chain. Do you have the right partner(s)?

Data is at the center of what defines business success with a point of differentiation. More organizations are hiring chief data officers (CDOs) to ensure data complies with the law and regulations while running the business profitably. Success additionally hinges on your technology partner of choice providing data governance and integration solutions.

To know, trust, and use data effectively requires not only economies of scale, but also economies of scope. Economies of scope include not only master data or data integration or data replication or data cataloging or a data lake on Hadoop. It might mean any one of those today, and any other adjacent solutions area tomorrow.

To run the business at a competitive pace, a partner with economies of scope and scale, with all the modern technology enablers of modern architectures (microservices, Docker, Kubernetes) in a multicloud environment, is key to success.

Where to start

Identifying a use case that has meaning for one of your business functions is essential. Collaborating with business functions can help CDOs or governance professionals to understand what business needs are.

Selecting a use case that can show a business outcome in a short while can lay the foundation for a pattern of success. The selected use case would define the scope of data you’ll handle first. Be it turning a failing data lake into a working one, providing quality data to your financial advisors, creating a master data for your marketing operations or complying with data protection laws and regulations.

Look for a partner that can help set the pace with economies of scale and scope. Learn more about how IBM Unified Governance and Integration can help you on a journey to know and trust your data. Read the whitepaper.

Related reading: 5 fundamental questions for your data journey