University of Wisconsin–Madison

Month: December 2016

Why have a CDO?

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of IT professionals about the role of a Chief Data Officer.  Having the chance to speak publically to a variety of audiences is one of the best facets to my job at UW-Madison because I meet new people and hear about their experiences.  Each time I’m out speaking I learn just as much as I hope the audience is learning from me.

One of the questions posed to me at this particular event was “Why should an organization have a Chief Data Officer?”  Great question!  To answer, I posed a number of questions back to the audience (don’t you love it when you ask a question and get asked back a question in response?)  The questions / responses went like this:

Q:  How many people in the audience believe their data are corporate / organizational assets?
R: Everyone’s hand went up.

Q: How many people in the audience think their organizations treat data as corporate assets?
R: Quite a few hands went down.

Q: What are some other corporate / organizational assets at the organizations represented by the audience?
R: Computers / Equipment (of course, it was a group of IT people), people, money.

Q: So let’s look at people and money.  How many people work in organizations that have an executive that manages HR – a VP of HR or Chief Human Resource Officer?
R:  Everyone’s hand went up

Q:  How many people work in an organization that have a CFO or VP of Finance?
R: Everyone’s hand stayed up

Q: How many people think technology is necessary to manage people or money?
R: Everyone’s hand stayed up

Q: How many people work in an organization where HR and/or Finance report into IT?
R: Everyone’s hand went down.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I believe an organization should have a Chief Data Officer.  If we truly believe data are institutional assets, then there should be a role within the organization to manage those assets.  Certainly technology is necessary to efficiently manage data.  But, the effective management of data is not a function of technology.  It is a function of the people who steward the data.  Those who steward the data should demand the requirement that the management of data is done efficiently and not haphazardly.  And then IT professionals can implement tools and/or solutions that meet that requirement.

Do I think those of us at UW-Madison treat our data as institutional assets?  In pockets across campus yes I do.  But there’s still a way to go for the notion of managing our data as assets to become part of our culture and method of operations.  I think we are moving in the right direction – and look forward to continuing conversations and advancing that notion.