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CDOs, DA teams focusing on right priorities, says Gartner study

Chief data officers (CDOs) and their data and analytics (DA) teams are focusing on the right priorities, but they are not yet achieving the best balance of their various responsibilities to deliver superior organizational performance, a recent survey by Gartner has revealed. “CDOs are generally focused on the right things, but they do not have the right mix of activities,” said Debra Logan, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. The survey found that while the creation of a data-driven culture was ranked the No 1 critical factor to the DA team, there were conflicting rankings for technical and non-technical activities (data integration and data skills training), and strategic and tactical activities (enterprise information management program and architecting a DA platform). Gartner conducted the fourth annual CDO survey online from September through December 2018, covering 257 CDOs, chief analytics officers and other high-level data and analytics leaders from across the world. The full survey was released at the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit now being held in Mumbai.

While implementation of a DA strategy was ranked the No 3 most-critical success factor by 28% of CDOs, another strategic activity – creating a data literacy program – was ranked only 12th. This was despite the fact that, in the same survey, ‘poor data literacy’ was rated the No 1 roadblock in creating a data-driven culture and realizing its business benefits.

Logan said the low ranking of strategic activities can be explained because the majority of organizations are at maturity level 3 or higher for EIM and business intelligence and analytics. “While the survey shows that information governance is important, especially master data management (MDM), CDOs should never lose sight of the business outcomes they are trying to achieve. Focusing exclusively on governance, even MDM, is not enough to succeed as a CDO,” she emphasized

A majority of CDO respondents rated machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) as critical at 76% and 67%, respectively. Nearly 65%  of respondents were using or piloting ML, while 53% were using or piloting AI. Less than 20% of CDOs surveyed were using or piloting smart contracts (18%) or blockchain (16%). Logan said CDOs are embracing emerging technologies to enable and drive data program success and the survey respondents reporting superior overall organizational performance compared to competitors or peers were more likely to use ML to drive revenue growth, attract and retain top talent and translate customer or business needs into high-value products or services.

The survey revealed that in terms of measuring the value of their organization’s information and data assets, only 8% of CDOs were measuring the financial value of DA and 45% of CDOs reported they produce some data quality metrics – such as accuracy, completeness, scale and usage – while 29% said they measure the impact of key information and data assets on business processes, such as KPIs.

The survey also found that the majority of CDOs generated value from information assets to improve internal processes (60%) and increase the value of products and services (57%), with a focus on efficiency. Nearly 50% of CDOs reported a focus on enhancing new offerings by innovating with information. Other means to realize value from information assets also lagged. Some 19% of CDO respondents were selling or licensing information via data brokers or online marketplaces and only 17% were selling or licensing to others for cash.

Logan added that a successful CDO need to emphasize the importance of providing measurable business outcomes – for example, how DA can reduce customer churn as well as deliver specific outcomes such as data quality;  balance tactical and strategic initiatives especially when it comes to technology implementation (the emphasis is not on implementation, which CDOs should leave to the CIO): and experiment with digital emerging technologies and look for the best use cases to develop past the pilot stage.

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