Gartner’s chief data officer survey: “Be the centre of gravity not control”

“What is clear, or so suggested Gartner analyst Valerie Logan, is that “the data and analytics disciplines are converging.” The CDO role is responsible for those converging disciplines. She was speaking at the latest Gartner Data & Analytics Summit as she outlined the findings of Gartner’s chief data officer survey.

Gartner’s chief data officer survey also revealed that blockchain is only being actively applied by a very small percentage of CDOs — just 7% — and whilst twice that number expect it to feature prominently over the next three years, it is machine learning and AI that is garnering the attention — 46% are currently applying machine learning, only 7% have no plans to support it and 30% are currently applying AI. The survey also looked at smart contracts, 11% are currently applying smart contracts —  although a whopping 52% said they were unsure.

As for blockchain, as well as the 7% who said they were currently applying it, 9% said they were piloting blockchain, 17% said they were assessing it, 12% have no plans and 47% were unsure.

Another key finding of Gartner’s chief data officer survey is how data is being valued.

Gartner found that 8% reported that key information assets are measured as if they were on the balance sheet.

According to Valerie Logan, CDOs tend to put emphasis on data quality — in addition to the 8% referred to above, 29% said key information assets were measured relative to improved performance such as achieving KPIs, 45% said that some data quality metrics are produced, and 19% said there are no objective measurements of information assets.

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What is in a name?

Of the people who contributed to Gartner’s survey into the future of the CDO, 45% described themselves as chief data officer, 11% as chief analytics officer, and 18 per cent as chief data and analytics officer.

The role is stabilising, a few years ago, it was common for the CDO to report to the CFO, largely because much of the work was regulatory driven, but now around 30% of CDOs report directly to the CEO, 17% to the CIO, 15% to the COO, and 5% to the CTO. Just 4% report to the CFO.

As for anticipated career progression, when asked what is ‘next on your career path?’ 47% said they that expected to stay in data and analytics, 12% expected it to be the role of CEO, 9% COO and also on 9% the CIO.

It won’t come as a great surprise to learn that CDOs reported on an increase in data and analytics within the organisation, 60% reported on an increase in the number of employees in the team and 53% reported an increase in budget.

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But Valerie Logan said that the most successful CDOs are the ones that who are “adopting a mindset of being the centre of gravity for data analytics, and not the control centre.”

She added: “If you are trying to consolidate everything, chances are you won’t be appreciated. So the model of being the centre of gravity for data analytics and supporting the community of data scientists and citizen analysts is the model we see as being the most successful.”

Defence versus offence

The majority of CDOs reported a focus on using data to support efficiency, for example, 60% are current using information assets to improve efficiency, and 57% to increase value of existing products.

On the other hand, 50% reported using information assets to develop new offerings.

But some CDOs reported other ways to realise value from information assets, including exchanging information with business partners for goods, services or more favourable contracts (29%), selling or licensing information via brokers or online market places (19%) and 17% selling or licensing information to others for cash.

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What do CDOs do with their time?

Gartner’s future of the CDO survey found that while CDOs typically want to be primarily strategic advisors, the reality is that they are inheriting quite a history of architectural dynamics and data quality issues and pent up demand for business constituents and need for self-service arrangements. “It is just a reality of earning creditably as a CDO, that you have to be able to be delivering and implementing short-term tactical results.”

In fact Gartner has three personas for the CDO:

• Conductor
• Composer
• Performer

“While they are constantly conducting the enterprise they have to be performing and delivering higher quality data, enabling insights and enabling innovation.”

But that is for the time being: “We expect more of a balance with more strategic roles,” suggested Ms Logan.

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of and the host of the ESG...

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