Data isn’t just enabling business, but driving it
For years, IT has served as the “default home” of (all structured and internal) data—accessed only when required to meet a specific business requirement. Not surprisingly then, that today most organizations have hundreds of independent data silos, plethora of legacy systems, applications and data platforms waiting to be decommissioned and migrated to newer models, and pockets of duplicated capabilities across functions.
However, by leveraging structured and especially unstructured data and using new technologies, principally artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), digital natives challenged the established model. They transformed data into a business asset—here, data is continuously providing insights and clues into the business—where it is and could go. Data is no longer an enabler of the business, but data is steering the business. This is where CDOs can step in to help free data from the bounds of legacy constructs including technologies, process, and culture and build the right set of capabilities. But, most organizations are vacillating in defining the precise role of the CDO, resulting in a divergence between where actual effort is spent vs where it should be spent. Why this disconnect?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that it has been much easier to build a specific solution to address a problem—for example, developing a particular customer acquisition model to improve a campaign’s effectiveness. This, as opposed to building the data infrastructure and data flows, together with advanced analytics engines and necessary talent with which the organization could build any kind of customer-facing model, whether it be for acquisition, retention, or servicing. This will require a strong commitment from the leadership to: first, understand the existing and required data, analytics and technology landscape across the enterprise and business function; and second, develop the necessary capabilities to extract business value buried in the data.
Moreover, any data-driven transformation effort will not yield the desired results if it is not accompanied by an organization-wide data literacy (how to derive meaningful information from data) and talent transformation initiatives (developing the right capabilities to leverage new data). This change management is, indeed, a big task!
Whose table should the CDO sit at?
If the scope of responsibilities is so comprehensive and the role is thought to be highly strategic to business, then who should the CDO report to? The CEO, CIO, COO, or CFO? There was a time when CDOs of yester years reported to CIOs, and no questions asked—this was when the scope of responsibilities were still within the realm of IT and the company was organized mostly around structured and internal data. Today, the business environment and data landscape are very different.