What to watch out for when chief data officers begin to appear in our country
Recently and for the first time, I met someone whose business card title read ‘Chief Data Officer’ at one of our customer’s places of business. It wasn’t in Slovakia, but I am convinced that it is only a matter of time until I meet someone here in the same position. The question is, whether this person’s background and scope of responsibilities will actually correspond to the importance that data now has inside a company.
Data is more than the simple opportunity that everyone now says it represents. Accurate and high quality exploitation of data in the form of better targeted campaigns can certainly deliver more business, improve relationships with customers, and expose fraud. And in time, companies in the Czech Republic and Slovakia will come to understand that data can be a valuable asset that they can cash in on.
Data is also accompanied by a tremendous number of risks and expenses that can drag a company under as well. For instance, regulators are constantly imposing new directives and guidelines on banks, demanding that banks maintain oversight down to the level of individual transactions. Most companies also need to make considerations for personal data protection and factor the potential loss of such data - either as the result of a cyber-attack or social engineering - into these considerations as well. Legislative questions may also arise in connection with the use of the cloud.
In short, chief data officers have to know how to efficiently store data and ensure that data management and strategy are up to scratch, without excessively burdening a company and adequate benefits not being generated. This means creating guidelines, standards and methods for working with data (including unstructured data, such as the recordings of call centre calls, videos and text documents), mastering the in-and-outs of storing data in the cloud, maximising data quality, taking responsibility for ensuring a company can extract information from such data for decision-making, having a metric for defending the benefits and costs associated with data, and ensuring compliance with the needs of regulators, data security and privacy protection. A CDO must know, in short, how to harmonise data with a company’s strategy and vision. This is no easy task, and a technological background alone is certainly not enough.
In spite of this, a global survey conducted by PwC reports that nearly half of managers responsible for data are also the heads of IT, which indicates that many companies consider these positions to be technological in nature. I'm afraid that when local companies begin to create positions responsible for data in their organisational structures they will follow a similar path: naming a person who is today responsible for the data warehouse or someone from the IT department as their chief data officer.
Such person should certainly have technical skills, but their business skills and strategic thinking are of equal importance. A chief data officer should be somewhere between IT and business - a rare breed indeed, and seldom found not only in our country.