Your C-Suite Needs a Chief Data Officer

Big data is on the tongue and in the checkbook of an increasingly large number of companies, but how should that expansion be handled? Should there be a select team who handles big data, or, more interestingly, a single officer? This Harvard Business Review blog article by Anthony Goldbloom and Merav Bloch examines the idea behind the Chief Data Officer, the person who would be responsible for evangelizing and applying the company's entire data structure. The value of having a Chief Data Officer (CDO) would begin with application: while there are plenty of applications that are apparent, the use of data can be limited to the untrained eye. The CDO's job would include efforts in expanding big data into sales algorithms, decision making and tactical arenas. This could rapidly provide value and insight for areas that a company previously could only guess at. The CDO's job also includes facilitating “data-driven decisions.” This means helping the organization base actions on hard data rather than intuition or past experiences. This includes constant collection of data that is cleaned, evaluated, and stored. This integrated process might seem straightforward, but in fact takes much more work than one would expect: This is easier said than done. It's rare to find a company using complementary technology across the entire data value chain. Moreover, data is often stored in different silos, making it difficult to exploit. Imagine you're a bank approached for a loan by an employee of AIG. It's likely that your corporate lending department has spent a great deal of time analyzing AIG, such analysis having bearing on the customer's prospects of getting a bonus, being promoted, or being terminated. It's also likely that such information is hidden from the retail lending division tasked with rating the customer. Too often, mismatched technologies force algorithms to fly half blind. Of course, all of this is pointless is companies don't recognize that the era of big data is already here: preparing your organization to fully benefit from it depends on having the right people pushing the right direction for the most impact.

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