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The importance of a chief data officer in the 21st century organisation

If there is one organisation that is incredible talented at creating headlines and buzzwords in the IT industry it is Gartner. Every time a Gartner analyst throws out a statistic it spreads like wildfire as journalists all over the world blog and tweet about it endlessly. Most of the time I am sure many of the predictions don’t come true but who is there to monitor it and there is no such thing as bad publicity. However when it comes to their latest prediction (Gartner predicts 90% of large organisations will have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) by 2019) about the importance of the CDO and how most large organisations will have one by 2019 I believe they are right.

As defined on Wikipedia “A chief data officer (CDO) is a corporate officer responsible for enterprise wide governance and utilization of information as an asset, via data processing, analysis, data mining, information trading and other means” I used to believe it was all about process and people when it comes to business improvement, yet data is just as an important pillar and in some cases more important. As commented by Larisa Mod and Sid Abelman in 2013 “Most organizations do a terrible job of using and securing data. Let's be clear: data is a critical asset just as are inventory, cash, buildings, personnel, and accounts receivable. Data is critical to running a business. Without good data, we don't know our customers, employees, products, suppliers, agents, status of our hotel rooms, seats on a plane, or the status of our supply chain. Without good data, we are unable to make the correct operational, tactical, and strategic decisions that differentiate those organizations that live and those that die. As you go beyond the headlines of failed organizations or failed programs, you'll find important examples of information that was unavailable, mishandled, wrong, misunderstood, or misinterpreted. These failures led to the demise of the organization.”

The Chief Data Officer must take responsibility for the quality, the standards, the definition, the security, the metrics, the integration of data, and the coordination of data among the various business functions. The Chief Data Architect must have authority to make determinations, set standards, and assess risk, cost, effort, responsibility, and accountability. Data is an incredibly valuable asset, GE target to generate $15 billion in revenue by 2020 selling data to customers, and they are well on their way having already achieved $5 billion in annual revenues. Given that data can be such a profitable asset it is time that organisations realise this and create the CDO (Chief data officer) role with adequate resources and investment. 

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