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The Merits of a Chief (Big) Data Officer

Do enterprise companies need someone to fill the role of a chief data officer (CDO)? Given the complexity of gathering, storing, managing, and securing data, an argument could be made that some type of data overseer is needed for larger companies.

Unknown 150x150 The Merits of a Chief (Big) Data OfficerIn addition to the various data streams for companies to consider using, it’s also important for someone within the IT organization to ensure the integrity of the data being used. So from a data integrity standpoint and in the absence of a chief data officer, who is ultimately responsible if customer and other data are inaccurate? The CIO? The CTO?

Here’s a point to consider in the discussion: management responsibility for data “should lie with the parties that have the most to gain or lose,” notes Thomas C. Redman in a Harvard Business Review blog post on the topic. “Business departments gain mightily when they create new value from data. In contrast, IT reaps little reward when data is used to improve a product, service, or decision.”

Whether a company decides to create a role for a chief data officer – and whether that person reports up through the IT organization or perhaps to a chief operating officer or another part of the organization – is a decision that ultimately resides with senior management.

But given the amount of value that data sets can create for a company – through greater insights about customers and prospects gleaned via data analysis that can be acted on to achieve greater organizational efficiencies – it can be useful to have a data chief to help analyze the business and operational benefits being generated by different data streams.

Given the investments that enterprises are making to gather, store, analyze, and act on data, companies will increasingly attempt to evaluate the business value that different data sets are delivering. Doing so will help businesses determine which data streams are delivering the greatest value and decide in which data sets they should increase or decrease their investments.

Given the value of proprietary data that companies have about their customers, products, and services, they should consider naming a CDO to oversee the security of such data.

EMC’s Chuck Hollis made this point a few months ago. “All businesses in the future will be information-driven if they’re not already,” Hollis notes in a blog post. And since information gathered by one part of a company is often valuable to other parts of the business, someone should be responsible for coordinating and safeguarding that information, he says.

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