CIO v CDO? In a data-driven business, who really manages information?
Here’s a hypothetical scenario:
Your company just announced to its shareholders that it’s making a significant pivot and becoming a insight-rich, data-driven business. You know you’ll be seeing some changes: new strategic directions will demand a new focus on data sources, data quality, and data governance. You expect that will mean some personnel changes across the organization. But then, at the next company meeting, your CEO announces that the company’s long-time CIO will be leading the charge. Something in your gut clenches. This isn’t going to go well.
Our hypothetical employee, let’s call him Luis, has some doubts about whether his CIO can champion a new commitment to data-driven business insights. Is he being fair? It’s true that for the past several years, CIOs have stepped beyond their roles as technology caretakers to become more business-savvy. But at many companies, CIOs still act as the custodians of business data, assuring that it flows smoothly from point A to point B. And that, I think, is why Luis is worried. Because when a CIO has no real understanding of data’s meaning, value, or worth, he or she isn’t really the right person to take ownership of data as a business asset. He or she is less likely, that is, to understand or manage governance processes that will deliver the right data into the right hands to drive business growth.
Luis has seen it before. Executives at his last company tasked IT with making data easier to find. His CIO responded by initiating an expensive and time-consuming data warehouse project. But making data easier to find isn’t about dumping it all in one place. Eighty percent of that data was of no interest to the business. And without a roadmap to the data that was there, without governance, no one knew who owned it, whether it was reliable, how it should be used, or who should be using it. Worse, business users couldn’t find the data they needed without help from IT. In the end, the data warehouse project was a failure.
So, what’s to be done? Should we tell Luis to cut his losses (yet again), update his resume, and start reaching out to his business contacts? Or should we instead take a more radical approach? If the CIO isn’t delivering real business intelligence, maybe it’s time to find someone who can—the Chief Data Officer. Why? Because the CDO understands that to be a true business asset, data needs to be shared across the enterprise. To accomplish that, the CDO involves business users in data’s governance. It’s business users, after all, and not IT, who understand data’s use, context, and nuance. The CDO, in effect, makes the business responsible for data. And that’s something every CIO should applaud.