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Who is the chief data officer?

Getting to know today’s hero of data and analytics

Communications & Client Engagement Executive, IBM

We kicked off IBM’s first Chief Data Officer (CDO) Summit with a video montage of three leading CDOs from banking, government and healthcare, talking about challenges, value and the future of the role in their own words. In the spirit of CDO-led conversation, the two day summit continued with CDOs and data leaders hosting discussions focused on obstacles, best practices and advice on how to build advocacy with C-Suite peers. 

Shaping the CDO role

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As one CDO noted, he’s been in his role for less than two years and feels like a “veteran” compared to his CDO peers. I also spoke to a CDO newly on the job (less than two weeks a CDO); despite the new nature of the role, all of the attendees I spoke with talked about their vast experience working in technical or analytical-based leadership positions. It is now about leveraging those experiences to help shape this new CDO role.

Summit attendees were a mix of CDOs by title and aspiring CDOs: data leaders in their organizations looking for research-based insights to help elevate their role. Equally applicable to both audiences, the new IBM Center for Applied Insights CDO thought leadership paper, “Your chief data officer: Re-imagining the business of data,” was released on the first day of the Summit and, as an aspiring CDO in insurance told me, “I plan to take this paper back to my COO and say, yes, let’s establish the CDO role.”

Getting started and building traction

How to get started and create impact were other common themes I encountered in my conversations with CDOs. I heard stories of implementing consistency across the organization (such as a new asset classification system or new business glossary), consolidation across multiple reference hubs and data sources, accelerated approaches to gathering customer feedback on new products in development and building a prototype of a real time information dashboard. As one CDO told me, “it’s all about embedding results, in a sustainable way, into my company’s processes.” 

Efforts varied depending on each CDO’s industry, organizational objectives, resources and unique working environment. Regardless of where CDOs were putting their energy, many commented on reducing risk, accelerating progress and looking for new ways to deliver value. And they were eager to share stories and hear about successes from their peers.

Keeping the conversation going

Another exciting announcement at the summit was the launch of the new CDO network. The network empowers CDOs and industry leaders to continue sharing best practices and experimenting with leading data and analytics approaches and solutions. Many of the CDOs I talked with expressed an interest in using the network to follow up on forum topics. For example, one particularly popular session focused on extracting maximum human insight through data analysis, including a shift to behavior-based analysis and testing out organizational practices like embedding analytics in product design teams and delivering “analytics as a service.”

One CDO asked a very important question, that resonates with me still: “how can we, as data leaders, help our organizations experience our products and services through the eyes of our customers?” I look forward to discussing this question and more as the CDO role continues to grow, advance and change.

Join us at IBM Insight for more CDO topics and conversation around all things big data and analytics.