The rise of the Chief Data Officer

This is a guest blog by Karthik Krishnamurthy, Global Business Leader for Enterprise Information Management, Cognizant

While there is a huge amount written about data scientists, much less has been said about the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO).  However, the value of this individual to any business must not be underestimated. In fact, Wired describes the emergence of the Chief Data Officer as “a transformational change that elevates the importance of data to the top of the organisation“.

In the last couple of years, businesses have recognized the role of the data and many of them have identified data as part of their core business strategy. Businesses are also acknowledging that data in the business setting is separate from the systems running it. There is now an understanding that data is hugely valuable; if harnessed and analysed properly, it can make businesses run better by realising cost efficiencies and run differently by bringing innovative products and services to the market.  Insight from data gives a better understanding of customer preferences, helping organisations develop new commercial models, deliver tangible business value, and remain competitive. This evolution has caused a demand for new business roles, the most prominent of which is the CDO.

The CDO in financial services

The role of the CDO first emerged as a valid and valuable role in the financial services industry to deal with the extreme pressure that arose from the financial crisis and rapidly evolving regulations. While a large part of the CDO’s immediate focus was around helping banks to manage and orchestrate their risk response, the focus then shifted to identifying data-driven revenue opportunities through micro-personalization and marketing triaging. As a result, the CDO’s focus is now on building integrated data ecosystems that bring in social cluster data to identify unusual patterns in transactional behaviour, flagging them to prevent loss and fraud. Interestingly, this is not something that is traditionally part of financial services per se, but is increasingly central to financial businesses.

The CDO plays a pivotal role in helping financial companies stay ahead by managing risks and remain compliant more efficiently.

The CDO in retail

Retail, which has witnessed a huge change in the way their global value chains work, is another industry where CDOs are bringing real business value. Through harnessing customer data, retailers can offer targeted products and services and improve customer satisfaction levels significantly. What data analysis has revealed for retailers is that shoppers have fewer issues with the cost of products but are more concerned with the overall retail experience. Sentiment analysis can detect subtle nuances in the relationship between customer and retailer. Focusing on the tonality of a customer’s voice, both face-to-face and when liaising with them over other touch pints such as the phone, social media, fora, etc., can help retailers detect the true feelings of their customers.

Other industries are rapidly catching up: many new technology companies are driven by their ability to collect vast amounts of data and their desire to monetize that data or utilize it in product design and services delivered to customers. Sectors such as telecommunications, energy & utilities, pharmaceuticals, and automotive manufacturing have all identified the value of the data and are creating business leaders responsible for data.

Data management now sits at the C-suite level, emphasising the value the role of the CDO brings to organisations.

CDO traits

Here are Cognizant’s insights for the traits needed to make up the ideal CDO:

·         Has a deep knowledge of data and ability to identify this as a corporate asset

·         Has strong business acumen and ability to identify business opportunities through new information products

·         Provides vision, strategy and insight for all data-related initiatives within the organization

·         Takes ownership and accountability of data and its governance within the organization

·         Passion and interest in technology