I can’t tell you how many times ‘event suppliers’ call me up and talk about how they can get me in front of a room full of Chief Data Officers. It has perhaps become one of the biggest buzzwords in the data improvement industry (‘Big Data’ aside). The truth of the matter is that this board level role accountable for ‘all things data’ is still fledgling, with latest estimates suggesting that only around 18-19% of organizations have a Chief Data Officer in place. So we are probably talking about a number in the 100’s globally at present and for the aforementioned events supplier to get me my 'room full' it would probably mean getting every CDO in the world to sign up!
The proliferation and adoption of the CDO role will of course vary by industry sector with the more highly regulated industries taking the lead as a result of their requirement for board level accountability when it comes to information governance and risk. This is something we have seen in some of our recent research into the insurance sector which identified that as many as 37% of organizations have already appointed a Chief Data Officer. What is even more interesting though –particularly for a vendor like VisionWare – is the positive impact that a CDO can have on a Master Data Management (MDM) initiative. The same research into the insurance sector identified that organizations with a CDO in place were almost twice as likely to be successful in creating the long elusive single and complete view of the customer. Which got us to thinking why that would be the case?
Guaranteed executive support
One of the perennial challenges of data improvement initiatives such as MDM is achieving that all important executive level sponsorship. It’s important to note that getting that level of buy in is one thing but maintaining it throughout the lifecycle of the project is the struggle of every MDM programme lead. By having this board level role in place, MDM initiatives have the continuity of executive support required to drive the ‘vision’ towards enterprise-wide uptake.
Cross departmental accountability for data
Another major challenge when it comes to Master Data Management projects is the issue of ‘data ownership’. We have all seen it before – technology led programs that stall because data owners from across the various silos of the organization simply won’t share their data with you. To get around this issue you have to build a vision capable of answering that age old question – why should I share my data with you? The role of the CDO adds clear value here not just in building and shaping the vision from a board level position but effectively by owning all of this data by default – it comes with the job title.
Overcoming the false starts and past mistakes
Let’s face facts data improvement has historically been a fairly tactical and reactive exercise that is usually born out of an issue that has caused the organization significant pain. This could be anything from not meeting regulatory compliance measures through to someone in the marketing department realizing they are wasting budget and damaging their reputation as a result of marketing to a mass of duplicate records. But it’s this tactical approach that has largely been the barrier to a single view of the customer across the organization. Departments have been left to their own devices and as a result a broad array of technology solutions have been purchased as part of an ad-hoc approach. Consider the impact then that a CDO could have on ensuring that all solutions acquired going forwards align to the broader enterprise information management strategy. Cost is often a barrier to entry for many organizations when it comes to MDM but that tends to be where individuals are looking at funding the initiative from one specific department. The CDO role provides the opportunity to overcome the corporate inertia and override the silo infighting to access budgets from across the organization. Add to that the ability to create a sense of perspective and bring together the adjacent components of an information management strategy such as data governance and MDM and you have a fairly powerful formula for progressive change.
There is an interesting correlation between the growth of the CDO role and the growth of the overall MDM market which should point towards the stars aligning around these types of data improvement initiatives. This is not to say MDM projects are doomed to fail without a CDO in place but it’s fair to suggest that the people and process change that surround these types of initiatives will be far easier to navigate as this role moves into mainstream adoption.
If you would like to read the insurance research referred to in this article click here