Sunday, 27 Sep 2020

TECH SPACE | The next big thing: chief data officer

From the pages of The Manila Times


The expansion of multinationals and conglomerates contributed largely to the emergence of the chief executive officer, now commonly addressed as simply the CEO. While, the chief information officers (CIOs) were deployed in response to the exponential growth of the World Wide Web and Internet-related pages and portals, and the company’s very own Intranet.

Today, to make sense of an explosion of data from internal and external sources, large-scale companies are employing the services of a chief data officer (CDO) who’s officially treated in pay, perks, and responsibilities as part of the top-level corporate inner circle.

The deployment of a CDO comes with the realization by top management that data is a strategic asset of the organization. In coming around to the idea that data is a precious resource, top executives have also understood the problem that potentially valuable data is everywhere, within and without the company—largely unmanaged, liable to be corrupted and exposed to theft, and existing in islands isolated from the mainstream of integration and cooperation.

Ensuring that data is properly managed, safe, and secure as well as shared among duly authorized partners and stakeholders is the main job of a CDO in the effort to meet the organization’s vision-mission.

It’s a responsibility that can be reasonably ascribed to be within the functions of a chief information officer. In practice, the CIO takes care primarily of the infrastructure, the provision of hardware, software, and networking systems, among others. Data management can still be among the duties of the CIO position but presently, every sector, from business establishments to educational institutions and non-government organizations, is now drowning in data ,so the idea of a separate guardian of data in any organization becomes of vital importance.

In the comparably more laidback ‘90s, the eventual functions of a CDO were then handled by CIOs mostly in the finance industry. They grabbed data from various sources, churned them into useful information, then made sure they conformed to security and governance standards.

The deluge of data came with the rapid expansion of the Internet. Now, the advent of digital transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT), which will entail processing of billions of data, demands that data management be within the purview of a separate top executive with the designation of chief data officer.

The main policy direction of a CDO is to create, sustain and evolve a data-driven culture within the organization. A data-driven culture exists in a workplace where decisions are made based on hard data, not on gut feel or conjecture.

To pursue such a mandate, the general duties and responsibilities of a CDO include:

• Provide a clear strategy on the management of data within the organization and its communication with other stakeholders;

• Define and institute business rules and roles around data in harmony with the avowed vision-mission of the organization;

• Implement systems and processes that ensure available data is trustworthy, reliable and secure;

• Apply technology to draw out meaningful value and insights from streams of data;

• Instill responsible sharing of data and ensure decision makers get relevant data to make sound decisions.

In the organizational structure, the CDO position is at the same executive level as the CIO, not an assistant or staff IT position. In which case, the CIO and CDO are expected to collaborate closely to reach the higher vision of a data-driven culture in the organization. In the first place, the CIO has been there before under less beleaguered situations and he could provide legacy insights to support the newcomer CDO in his/her advocacy towards a data-driven culture.

The CDO is a decades-old post in developing economies but it’s only beginning to be appreciated in the Philippines, most likely in local offices of multinational corporations.

A quick search at online head-hunting sites revealed an announcement by a globally oriented corporation to hire a CDO who has the following qualifications: a College degree in Computer Science or its equivalent; at least five years’ experience in IT-related field; and preferably CEOs/SVP/VP/Director specialized in IT/Computer Network/Database Admin or its equivalent.

It’s a generic description of a possible candidate but it’s a start since the CDO position is in itself at an infancy in the Philippines. Still, one can only wonder if CDOs were already in place, the Bangladesh scam and the Comelec data heist might have been prevented, or at least could have minimized the serious damages they have wrought.

From the pages of The Manila Times

Tony Maghirang

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