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Chief data officer role now well-entrenched, says Gartner

Three out of five chief data officers in a Gartner study reported an increase in headcount, though few are measuring the value of their data assets

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Asia-Pacific: CW APAC: Expert advice on data management

The global population of chief data officers (CDOs) has grown 100-fold – to 10,000 – over the past decade as enterprises around the world race to exploit their data reserves.

According to vice-president and Gartner fellow Debra Logan, the CDO role is now well-entrenched among organisations seeking to fully exploit their data.

Almost a third (30%) of respondents to Gartner’s fourth global CDO survey report directly to the CEO or equivalent “because the CEO is interested in revenue and risk”, which data could impact, said Logan.

To maintain that executive interest, Logan warned CDOs not to disappear into what he called a “data quality blackhole” where a disproportionate amount of time and budget is invested on cleaning data collections from which data is generated.

Releasing the first cut of its 2018 CDO survey in Sydney recently, Logan noted that investment in the area remains strong. In the past year, three out of five CDOs reported an increase in headcount while 53% said they had an increase in budget.

Some 7% of survey respondents are based in Asia-Pacific, but Gartner has not yet broken out any regional or country data from the survey.

At the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit in Sydney, Logan said the average budget for data analytics was $600,000, which she said seemed surprisingly low.

Another surprise was that only 8% of organisations were measuring the value of information assets as though they were on the balance sheet – even though 17% said that they were already selling or licensing data.

Almost one in five organisations (19%) still have no form of valuation of their data assets.

Delegates were reminded that whatever they invested in data analytics, it was enterprise culture that had the biggest impact on success. Some 39% of survey respondents nominated cultural challenge to accept change as the main blocker for data analytics success.

When the culture is supportive, progress is easier. In a panel session focused on fostering data-driven cultural change, Marek Rucinski, deputy commissioner of the smarter data programme at the Australian Taxation Office, said analytics – driven by the business because of the perceived value of analytics – was now past the point of no return. 

At Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers, Alan Lowthorpe, general manager of advanced analytics, said data and digital were among the top three strategic priorities for the group, adding that achieving a business pull rather than relying on an analytics push was key to sustained success.

“Data and analytics need to be interwoven with the organisation,” he said. “What you are trying to do is build a muscle that the business can flex.”

But Lowthorpe also stressed the need for the business to capture, analyse and use data appropriately while guarding against unintended consequences. CDOs, he said, had to “help business understand what it is and what it can and can’t do”.

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