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Evolution and adaptation – The role of the Chief Data Officer

Businessman and a Data Cloud

In the words of Sun Tzu

As the management of any successful business institution will tell you the infrastructure surrounding trade must evolve to fit the needs of the market. To paraphrase Sun Tzu we all essentially agree that strategy guides and implements the process of evolution and this, in turn, leads to success.

In a business landscape where effective data utilisation dominates the evolving of processes it would seem self evident that the shaping of the topography, flow and practical implementation of held data resources is vital. In fact the management of data assets is so important that it is key to the continued success of data reliant institutions.

Evolve to meet the demands of Big Data

The issue faced by institution is the recurring ‘big data’ problem. For a multi national for example there may well be many years worth of valuable data which has been gathered, stored, distributed and utilised over a range of platforms, systems and perhaps languages which ideally needs drawing together into a coherent whole.

Evolution of approach was clearly needed and a method usually employed to untangle the occasionally ugly mass of information is the appointment of a Chief Data Officer.

How is the Chief Data Officer adapting and evolving?

The CDO has a multi-purpose function within an institution and, while the role will differ depending on the circumstances of the business needs, it will usually involve the following in a variable ratio.

  • The overview and strategic understanding of often-disparate data.
  • The rationalisation of data assets into a coherent and accessible whole.
  • The implementation of local and wide area strategy for the distribution and collection of key data.
  • The implementation of best practice based governance - including adherence to legal, regulatory and institutional requirements for storage and ultilisation of personal and other data.
  • The implementation of a system distribution of required data into a practical framework.

CDO or Architect?

This is by no means an exhaustive list but we offer no apology for this as the few hundred words available in this article is woefully short for a subject that is highly complex in nature.

The individual needs of the institution will bend and shape the above list and some of them may become unrecognisable as a result. This is (as it should be) because the role of the CDO can be thought of as the guiding hand of data systems evolution within a business environment. The data must flow from storage to usage and the CDO is the architect of that flow.

Sometimes one sees a moment of pure evolution in action. The Chief Data Officer is as good an example of this as any in recent business history. Big data needs to be mastered and it is only natural that a role has developed to facilitate that.