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Chief data officers urged to master product management

Webscale businesses are data-driven. Data drives new application areas and fuels product development – and businesses will need a similar strategy, says analyst

Analyst Gartner has identified a new breed of chief digital officer (CDO) in organisations where data-driven projects are no longer discrete but part of a continual product development lifecycle.

“We believe this is the rise of a new type of leader – the CDO 4.0,” said Mario Faria, vice-president and programme director at the Gartner Research Board. “This fourth version of the CDO is focused on products and on managing profit and loss, instead of just being responsible for driving data and analytics projects and programmes.”

IT has generally been budgeted as an operational cost required to run the business. This is separate from discrete capital projects, that have a clearly defined beginning and end. But according to Gartner, organisations are now beginning to align funding, development resources and ongoing management support around a set of enduring product lines.

Its research suggests that 72% of organisations will be using a product model this year.

According to Gartner, a product-centric data and analytics organisation requires new skill sets, roles, investment models and the right culture. 

“The change to a product-centric organisation must focus on business areas where there is room to innovate, such as supporting a new business model,” said Faria. “Product-centric approaches make it easier to rapidly innovate and iterate because they focus on user experience, evolving requirements, and the strategic differentiation for what you are delivering.”

Gartner recommended that CDOs who want to help their organisation transform into one that uses ongoing data-driven product development, start with a data and analytics platform, then define a release plan and roadmap. After that, a team can be built to make the delivery cycle happen, it said.

Faria said CDOs must think about the data first and the applications areas for the data afterwards. According to Gartner, this is the approach Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple take. Faria said these companies have built successful platforms that allow data capture and analytics usage, with faster lifecycles between releases.

Gartner urged CDOs to work with their organisations’ leaders to adapt or change the investment models their businesses currently have in place. The analyst firm noted that serving one area or one team on an individual basis is no longer a scalable model. It recommended that CDOs should look to scale the use of the platform across the enterprise.

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