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What’s a Chief Data Officer got to do with it?
November 16, 2018 Blog Data Scientist


by Suganthi Shivkumar, Managing Director, ASEAN, Qlik

Data, data everywhere: The growing importance of data in business operations

These days, as I speak to companies, there is an unspoken consensus within the business landscape: we need dedicated people to look into data. Why? Because it is an unparalleled asset which can help organisations in understanding their customers, streamlining internal operations, increasing profitability, and optimising business processes.

A quote from the book Infonomics by Douglas Laney puts this in perspective: As one CIO for a large insurance company recently admitted to me: “It’s silly that someone around here has an inventory of our office furniture, but nobody in the company has an inventory of what data we have.”

Unlike furniture however, data is not static. Just as we evolve over time as people and customers, businesses also pivot their models, augment their operations by launching new verticals, or transform their processes.  The dynamically-changing nature of information adds to the complexity and volume of the data – both internal and external – that organisations have access to. Such flux is not easy to handle.

Defining the role: What to expect from your CDO

Just as your CMO is responsible for your marketing initiatives, your Chief Data Officer is responsible for overseeing, managing, and designing your data operations and strategy. Every action taken by this C-suite level executive is aimed towards a singular end-goal: to drive optimum business value and to identify new opportunities/threats by utilising your organisation’s data resources.

But how do CDOs do this? They do this by empowering stakeholders across the board with relevant, data-driven insights. Access to such contextual information at every point of the decision-making process can help business users across the board – be it the senior leadership team, the board, or the employees – make more accurate and value-driven decisions. The CDO transforms conventional processes through the power of data to realise value which would otherwise remain hidden; ‘1+1+1+1+1 = 5’ can be easily turned into ‘(1+1+1) X (1+1) = 6’, if only one knows how to do it.

Making relevant data accessible to all business users within the organisation requires a fundamental change in the way that organisations approach their data operations. Guiding your business through this transformation also falls under the purview of your CDO.

The role is comprehensive and integrative, and requires the CDO to hold extensive expertise in business functions such as digital marketing, analytics, supply chain management, and CRM. They are responsible for managing logical integrations across the IT infrastructure and breaking down the information silos across your organisation into a vast, interconnected data pool that everyone can tap into – as and when they need.

Moreover, the CDO and their team are required to build strong relationships with both internal and external stakeholders, as well as effectively convey the impact of adopting data-driven operations to key business leaders and their teams. This requires them to have strong communication skills. The CDO must also be capable of representing your organisation on various industry fora, and taking up issues pertaining to digital transformation that impact most organisations, as a thought leader.

Managing data adequately and extracting the maximum business value from it requires proper custodians, experts with the required knowledge and proficiency to handle, process, and manage an organisation’s data resources. The very fact that we now have specialised data professionals merely underpins how critical data has become for business operations today.

Organisations realise that data cannot be trivialised, as doing so can lead them to miss out on the massive business opportunity that the data explosion is creating for them. C-Suite executives have understood the need for an independent business unit which lives, breathes, and prospers by data. The shift has already begun, the data revolution already well underway. The only question that remains to be answered is this: are you ready for it?