Chapter 1. Understanding the Chief Data Officer

Introduction

As the tide of “big data” continues to rise, organizations find themselves either comfortably riding the wave or up to their necks in new technologies and trying not to drown. As technology has come to play an increasingly vital role over the last several decades, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) have become familiar roles. Now, the newer but rapidly spreading Chief Data Officer (CDO) position is becoming more familiar. And when provided the right structure and support, a CDO can be an excellent captain for navigating these new waters.

We have all come to understand that data, when used correctly, can yield tremendous value—or even change entire industries. Look at what Amazon and Netflix have done with recommendations, to take a “new school” web example, or look at what Walmart has done with supply chain optimization, to take an “old school” retail example. What company wouldn’t want to achieve such results through better use of data?

If those examples constitute the “carrot” of business insights, efficiency, and even brand new products, then there is also a data “stick.” Industries such as finance and healthcare, which regularly deal with sensitive personal information, have become more heavily regulated in terms of how they must handle and protect their personal data. Even without regulation, the ongoing plague of hacks has made the prospect of a large data breach a very scary ...

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