Perspectives

Chief Data Officer: A True Champion Backed by Data

Arvind Purushothaman
Data & Analytics practice at Virtusa
Article

Modern organizations have come to recognize data as a critical enterprise asset that can be leveraged to identify new opportunities and support business decisions, in a way that has never been possible. It’s no wonder that the chief data officer’s (CDO) role has gained greater recognition, more executive power, and more influence within the enterprise.

According to New Vantage Partners’ 2018 annual survey of Fortune 1000 c-executives, nearly two-thirds revealed that their companies have a CDO in place—a respectable 63.4%, up from a mere 12% in 2012. The survey goes on to highlight that several blue-chip enterprises are investing heavily in data initiatives ranging from legacy data management to data-driven artificial intelligence (AI) programs to analytics, legitimizing the CDO’s existence.

With companies moving towards adoption of a data-driven culture, businesses are looking at data to give them an edge through better decision making, availability of information on demand, the golden record, and better quality of insights. Unlocking the humungous potential of data requires human expertise, long-term strategy, innovative organizational structures, and continual effort.

CDOs will play a pivotal role in bringing information protection and privacy, information governance, data quality, and data lifecycle management closer to reality. As the key executive, the CDO can add significant value to the organization and be a true champion not based on popularity but backed by data.

The CDO can solve mission-critical data challenges and turn them into opportunities by being the owner for data strategy and results. The CDO, along with the CIO, can align data strategy with organizational goals, and create a culture of data awareness and innovation. Also, by being a data steward, the CDO can implement many data quality initiatives and improve data quality and availability. To realize the value derived from data, a change in mindset will be necessary.

Being aligned to business demands, CDOs also have the responsibility to support regulatory changes, ensure compliance, and even drive safe data practices. They must finalize standards and partner with legal and information security teams in the company to ensure data is safeguarded through effective data governance policies. Moreover, as change agents, they must work in tandem with the business goals, define and report metrics that matter, integrate and rationalize data assets, and simplify data flows.

CDOs have many dimensions to their roles, and to ensure they are at the top of things, they must build a core team of analysts and technologists to stay ahead of trends in the data space and build POCs that can be expanded to the enterprise and can work on wide-ranging data quality initiatives. In short, the CDO can ensure that the organization moves ahead to the same beat ensuring the power of data is harnessed for business purposes.

For enterprises to win this data game, it’s not just about using data to derive more business value, but also for the CDO to spearhead the transformation.