Archives For July 2013

MIT PhotoLast Weeks’ MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Summit was a social media bonanza given the wide rage of coverage and groundswell of advocacy coming from all the camps who have a vested interest in seeing the concept of the “Data Czar” come to fruition. It was no less feverish of an event than those focused on Big Data or the role of the Data Scientist. It was truly an interesting spectacle to observe. I look forward to attending the next one of these “data fests” in the coming months.

As promised in my earlier postings on the Summit here is my Summary in the form of “Five Key Takeaways”

1.- There is no agreement as to “What is a Chief Data Officer?” It is an amorphous role description and has been designed to invoke thought rather than to define just what this executive should be Accountable and Responsible for in the grand scheme of things.

“Data is not stuff. It is the lifeblood of your enterprise and the Business is fully accountable for its Management and Leadership”

2.- A cross-sectional view of the CDO’s in attendance at the event (and a sampling of those not) indicates to me that this is (unfortunately) an IT role in most enterprises who have adopted it so far. This is disappointing, but not a surprise, given the lack of accountability for Information Management that most business leaders have failed to assume.

“IT is neither a seat of power nor influence in today’s enterprise. It is a cost center responsible for Service Delivery”

3.- Regulatory Compliance continues to be the dominant focus for all CDO Discussions and Activities. Keeping their CEO from being broadcast live during their “perp walk in his/her orange jumpsuit” for failure to accurately report on SARBOX, Dodd-Frank, Basel III, etc. is the major motivation for most CDO’s in Financial Services today.

“Risk and Compliance activities can be sources of Competitive Advantage for many enterprises if addressed as “strategic and core” rather than “necessary and evil” by the Organization and its Data/Information strategists and practitioners”

4.- MIT at large is studying (and experimenting with) the Chief Data Officer phenomena very closely. Using “Big Data” sources such as Interviews, Surveys and Social Media they are building a very detailed view (and analysis) of “The What and the Why” around the CDO and Data Scientist frenzies. Their “Cube” model (see my last posting) is a very interesting endeavor in respect to behavioral analysis and the tenants of good organizational design.

“To design a future state Organization focused on creating and embedding a culture of Information Management, Exploitation and Stewardship within it requires a deep understanding of the psyche of the current organization and its ability to change and adapt”

5.- The MIT CDO and Information Quality Summit has its roots in the study and analysis of Data Quality. It has been around for many years now and has only recently added the context of “Chief Data Officer” to its remit. However, the need to radically improve Data Quality has never been more paramount across all enterprises. We have yet to take this matter seriously and continue to treat it as a downstream activity or more cynically as “A hazard of doing business”. The more that we focus on the bright shiny objects of Big Data, Data Scientists, Chief Data Officers, etc. the less that we want to sustain the need to be ever-vigilant on improving Data Quality over the entire lifecycle for Information. We seem to have relegated ourselves to creating more of the same low quality data to attempt to analyze and make decisions from.

“Fundamentally, most data used by Organizations for Decision Making, Reporting and Insights/Analysis is suspect at best. We don’t understand its Provenance and resist all forms of Governance in terms of acceptable usage and behavior”.

As a final note, I will be writing a series of articles on the Chief Data Officer role for Information Age ( ) over the coming months as well as speaking on it at upcoming industry events in the US & UK.

Stay Tuned!

Day 3 - MIT Chief Data Officer & Information Quality Forum

MIT Researchers explain their “CDO Big Data Cube” model for the types of Chief Data Officers based on their Interviews, Survey Responses and Other Contributions.

Their core definition of the CDO is an individual who has the expertise to adequately Lead and Administrate these 4-Critical Dims:

1.- Data Quality
2.- Data Governance
3.- Data Strategy
4.- Data Architecture

While these are critical elements of what I call an “Information Management Executive” (and many are now calling Chief Data Officer), there are several others that are just as important;

5. -Executive Leadership and Administration
6.- Communications & Collaboration Excellence
7.- Political Astuteness

All of these critical capabilities manifest into the “the entire package”. Many at this week’s conference doubted the need for deep domain skills as found in points 1-4, but all believe that 5-7 were essential to success. I believe that all are required as Leadership must be demonstrated on both fronts (Business & Technical).

In my next posting I will summarize the Forum altogether and provide my viewpoint on the need for both a unified vision and definition of this critical role no matter how you refer to it.


“Data is the responsibility of the business, not IT” or alternatively “Data should be a Business Issue, not a Technical one”

One of the few consensus themes coming out of this CDO & Information Quality confab is that “The Business must rise to the occasion and assume its natural Accountabilities and Responsibilities associated with the Information (not data) it uses”. Abdicating these to IT for so many years now has resulted in the chaos and lack of strategic direction that we now must contend with. I salute this wholeheartedly. 

It has been a pleasure to see many representatives from the Business side here at the conference, many of which speaking from a voice of leadership and accountability. Unfortunately, the role of the Chief Data Officer continues to be part of the IT Organization in far too many enterprises. This must change immediately (much less shifting the focus from “data” to “Information”. I could go on about this for hours).

I will be preparing a summary of the entire Conference early next week. In the meantime continue to enjoy my snarky tweets along the way.


“Data is the re…

MIT Chief Data Officer & Information Quality Symposium, Cambridge, MA

On Day 1 of the CDOIQ Symposium we heard from a number of Government & Industry Leaders and Academics on the subject of “The Role & Reporting Structure of the CDO” and “How we can create as many Data Scientists in 1-year as we do MBAs”. (not quite sure that the world is ready for this, but…). Today (Day 2) we will dig into this further with Panel discussions and testimonials from current CDO’s. We will even get into some discussions on Information Quality, the never-ending challenge that has fostered much of the need for the CDO (and Data Governance Office). I will report more on this in tomorrow’s edition.

I am encamped this week in hot & steamy Cambridge, MA to attend the annual MIT CDO & Information Quality Forum. One of the key focal points of the conference will be the Role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO). This role along with other new ones such as “Data Scientist” are very contentious (and perhaps dubios) in my opinion. As a student and practitioner of Organizational Design, I find the notion of creating unique roles based on fashion, rather than logic are problematic, especially when they overlap (or duplicate outright) with existing ones (Chief Information Office, Data Analyst, Data Steward, etc.).

During the course of this week’s conference we will hear from a number of folks who have been tagged as “CDO’s” by their organization. Most report to an IT executive which is totally self-defeating in my opinion. I am hoping for a very engaging conversation about the scope and authority of this role, much less why it exists altogether. It should be an interesting dialog and I will report in regularly (via my Twitter account @InfoMgmtExec )

Information Management as a discipline has many challenges, one of them being the delineation of responsibilities & accountabilities between the Business and IT. It is not helpful to further cloud this issue by inventing new roles with nebulous responsibilities that do not address the core issue of; If you believe that “Information is an Asset” then “Who owns the Accountability for Information at the end of the day?

Standby for further updates from the conference.