Chief Data Officer is on its way to becoming “an established board level role by 2020”

By taking a considered and tactical approach to utilising the data resources at your disposal it is possible to improve your interactions with your customers beyond measure, improving the way you connect with people in the process. And the latest evidence suggests that this is a fact that a growing number of organisations are starting to recognise.  

Experian Data Qualityrecently completed some research into a new breed of data professionals that are helping businesses to recognise the strategic value of data – the ‘Dawn of the Chief Data Officer’ (CDO). While the findings acknowledge that this role is still in its infancy in the UK, it is encouraging that there is an increasing demand for it by colleagues – namely Chief Information Officers (CIO) – as a key role for the future. 

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In fact, the survey found that 92 per cent of those asked felt a CDO is best placed to define data strategy and be the guardian of data quality within an organisation. Previously, this was an area that many CIOs felt they had to own, alongside tech, but this was by default rather than design. 

In addition, 61 per cent of CIOs wanted to see a CDO hired within the next 12 months. Rather than wanting another IT person to come in and absorb the pressure created by increased data, CIOs told us that they are in need of a dedicated data specialist who can build an effective and long-term data strategy. 47 per cent cited the sheer volume of data as a key barrier, preventing them from exploiting data assets further. Such is the demand that they believe the CDO will become an established board level role by 2020.

The key reasons for wanting a CDO are to capitalise on big data opportunities (44 per cent), to provide a consistent approach to de-risk data driven projects (41 per cent) and to cope with increasing regulation (38 per cent).

I was privileged enough to discuss the research findings with some of the UK’s CDOs and senior data officers from organisations such as BNP Paribas, eBay, Sky and Dunnhummby, to name a few, who all agreed that when managed properly, data of the highest quality can not only enhance the customer experience and differentiate an organisation from its competitors; it can also reduce unnecessary costs.

Now it may seem obvious but ensuring the data is of optimal quality should be an on-going priority for all data-driven businesses. CIOs believe that they could increase their profits by an average of 15 per cent if their data was of the highest quality. Interestingly, we found that on average CIOs cite savings from investing in data quality tools to be less than £1m however, comparatively CDOs stated this to be in excess of £5m.

In our discussion, an interesting observation was that every division within an organisation can derive value by using data. To achieve data of the highest quality and maximise returns there must be support for the CDO role and clarity on what exactly data can achieve throughout the whole organisation.

CDOs focus on data governance, monitoring, processes and lifecycle, not IT. They are the business enablers who look to drive their businesses forward with a data strategy that will filter down and align all stakeholders while extracting value for customers, creating competitive advantages in the process and ultimately impacting the financial performance of the organisation.

 As many of the CDOs highlighted, it may not be straightforward to bring the role into your organisation unless your business is already data-driven because it will most likely require a culture shift. However, it’s worth it if your organisation is committed to revolutionising its business operations with a better use of data that will enable in depth understanding of your markets, your clients and your products.

Boris Huard is MD of Experian Data Quality.

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