When you’re a chief data officer (CDO) it’s clear that your primary job responsibility is to keep the company out of trouble. You are to stay on top of the evolving regulatory landscape and make sure that the company remains in compliance. And you are to ensure there are no customer-privacy mishaps. Unfortunately this shortsighted mind-set reflects a tremendous missed opportunity.
Here’s a scary statistic. Only 4% of companies said they have the right people, tools, data and intent to draw meaningful insights from that data — and to act on them. That’s according to a management survey by Bain & Company. Something is seriously wrong. Can you remember a conversation with a CMO over the past five years where data wasn’t on the agenda? Can you think of a single CEO who isn’t preoccupied with digital transformation and putting data at the center of the business? Even Cannes Lions — — the international festival of creativity — — is dominated recently by talk of data. However when you survey management as Bain & Company did, it’s clear there is a stark disconnect between the talk and the reality.
It’s no wonder CDOs are so focused on compliance and governance. If you (the CEO) don’t understand something the first thing you want to do is make sure it doesn’t destroy the company or cost you your job. And we’ve all read enough sensational headlines to know that when it comes to data the stakes are high. Effective data governance and compliance with data privacy regulations are a serious responsibility that is worthy of a C-level title and significant investment. We should look at these things through the lens of consumer trust and do them right. That’s the cost of doing business in a digital world. But unfortunately staying out of trouble is not a strategy for winning in the marketplace. Instead, companies are better served by viewing the CDO role as a strategic position with the potential to create vast differentiation for the business as a whole.