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The Role of a Chief Data Officer

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According to a recent article in Information Management, nearly two-thirds of CIOs want to hire Chief Data Officers (CDO) over the next year. Why is this dramatic transformation taking place, and what does it mean for you and your organization?

More than anything, the rise of the CDO recognizes the growing role of data as a strategic corporate asset. Decades ago, organizations were focused on automating specific functions within their individual silos. Later, enterprise-level computing like CRM and ERP helped them reap the benefits of data interoperability. And today, trends such as big data and data mining have brought the strategic value of data front and center.

This means that the need is greater than ever for a central, C-level resource who has both a policy-making and advocacy role for an organization’s data. This role generally encompasses data standards, data governance, and the oversight of data metrics. A CDO’s responsibilities can be as specific as naming conventions and standards for common data, and as broad as overseeing enterprise data management and business intelligence software. They are ultimately accountable for maximizing the ROI of an organization’s data assets.

A key part of this role is oversight of data quality. Bad data represents a tangible cost across the organization, including wasted marketing efforts, misdirected product shipments, reduced customer satisfaction, and fraud, tax and compliance issues, among other factors. More important, without a consistent infrastructure for data quality, the many potential sources of bad data can fall through the cracks without insight or accountability. It is an exact analogy to how quality assurance strategies have evolved for manufacturing, software or other areas.

A recent report from the Gartner Group underscored the uphill battle that data quality efforts still face in most organizations: while those surveyed believed that data quality issues were costing each of them US $9.7 million dollars annually on average, most are still seeking justification to address data quality as a priority. Moreover, Gartner concludes that many current efforts to remediate data quality simply encourage line-of-business staff to abandon their own data responsibilities. Their recommendations include making a business case for data quality, linking data quality and business metrics, and above all shifting the mindset of data quality practitioners from being “doers” to being facilitators.

This, in turn, is helping fuel the rise of the central CDO – a role that serves as both a policymaker and an evangelist. In the former role, their job is to create an infrastructure for data quality and deploy it across the entire organization. In the latter role, they must educate their organizations about the ROI of a consistent, measurable approach to data, as well as the real costs and competitive disadvantage of not having one – particularly as more and more organizations add formal C-level responsibility for data to their boardrooms.

Service Objects has long focused on this transition by creating interoperable tools that automate the process of contact data verification, for functions ranging from address and email validation to quantitative lead scoring. We help organizations make data quality a seamless part of their infrastructure, using API and web-based interfaces that tap into global databases of contact information. These efforts have quickly gained acceptance in the marketplace: last year alone, CIO Review named us as one of the 20 most promising API solution providers. And nowadays, in this new era of the Chief Data Officer, our goal as a solutions provider is to support their mission of overseeing data quality.

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