Alation appoints first chief data officer

Aaron Kalb, the co-founder of Alation, has been appointed as the company’s first chief data officer (CDO).

As CDO, Kalb will lead a team dedicated to Alation’s data strategy: governance, self-service analytics, security and compliance initiatives, as well as best practices on the proper use of data and data literacy initiatives.

In addition to the appointment, Stephanie McReynolds has been promoted to senior vice president of marketing. The first senior marketing hire at Alation, McReynolds has been already been successful in bringing Alation’s customer stories to market and helped the company advance in the machine learning data catalog category.

“Only a few years ago, the market was just beginning to understand what a data catalog is and how it could help them connect analytics with decision making. Now, enterprises around the world and in nearly every major industry vertical are crediting the Alation Data Catalog with increasing analytic productivity, driving agile stewardship and expanding access to analytics beyond the analytic specialist,” said Stephanie McReynolds. “In conjunction with our customers, we’re learning that to reach the final mile of analytic value, applications, like data catalogs are critical.”

“Aaron and Stephanie have both been instrumental in championing the data catalog category and the core tenets of a customer data culture. As we further our mission of changing the way people work with data, it’s critical that we continue to evolve our own organisation as a centre of industry best-practices for data culture,” said Satyen Sangani, CEO of Alation. “We’re looking forward to sharing Aaron and Stephanie’s hands-on experience with a broader audience, especially as developing data culture becomes critical to enterprises worldwide.”

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The role of the CDO

The role of the CDO is growing in importance, with the position becoming both a fundamental function and an agent of change for data-driven transformation.

According to Gartner, “It’s not difficult to see how, by 2021, the office of the CDO will be a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75% of large enterprises.”

And yet, CDOs still face steep challenges when it comes to fostering data culture. Gartner also found that, “top CDOs reported internal roadblocks to success of their offices, indicative of a reactive response from organisations being pushed to change.”

In his role as CDO, Kalb will work with customers and internal users to test and publish best practices for using a data catalog to create a data culture.

One of his first initiatives will be embarking on a global tour to meet with prospects, partners and customers. Through these conversations he will be develop and share best practices for finding, understanding, trusting, using and reusing data to drive business impact, as well as key learnings and success stories from other CDOs and analytics leaders.

Internally, new Alation employees will be trained on how to integrate data into their day-to-day work. This training process will help employees in a wide range of roles make data-informed decisions and build deeper empathy with Alation’s end-user population.

“Alation’s vision is to empower a curious and rational world. My mandate is simple: to promote curiosity, rationality, data-driven decision-making, and data culture within Alation and around the world,” said Kalb. “I’m super excited to work with and learn from the incredible community of CDOs across our customer base, from Salesforce in San Francisco to Sainsbury’s in London, and advance our vision and values throughout many organisations.”

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Information Age analysis

The most interesting aspect of this news story is the fact that Alation has hired its first chief data officer.

Data, I won’t call it the new oil or currency, and its proper use is becoming essential for businesses in every industry.

All these new, emerging technologies that are driving the latest products or business strategies are powered by data. The more data the better.

But more comes with challenges, when you consider that this means millions of different data sets located in different areas of a business, coming in from a multitude of data sources.

To handle this and make data a success, every organisation will need to hire (or promote in this case) someone to look after data as if it were an asset.

The CFO looks after a company’s finances and the CDO looks after a company’s data. These positions, backed my the board, should become more commonplace within organisations that want to succeed and thrive in the digital economy, which data powers.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...