CDO role undergoing rapid transformation

Businesses are increasingly placing the chief data officer (CDO) at the hub of their operations, with a responsibility linked to all functions, as the dependence on information and data-driven decision-making increases.

Simultaneously, the CDO role is becoming broader and less technical as it begins to require a full appreciation of the total business picture. In many firms, smarter tools are taking out some of the complex science formerly required.

Whereas only a few years ago CDOs would typically be expected to have a highly technical background, they are now emerging from myriad parts of any large-scale business. CDOs now need to know far more about broader business contexts, strategies and risks than would have been required a decade ago.

“Data today is not just ‘customer data’, it’s everything in a business, and that’s why the role is changing,” explains Mark Hinds, chief executive at software firm Polymatica, whose platform enables firms to visualise vast swathes of data almost instantly. “At a very senior level, the CDO needs to be someone who understands the business, equipping teams with the right tools, and ensuring data accessibility is excellent and simple.”

CDOs often now originate from a background of marketing, sales, product management or elsewhere within organisations, not only from technology. Yet they face the same challenge of making sure their teams are properly equipped to understand and act on data, so many are choosing systems that help non-experts make the most of information.

This accessibility is particularly important given the rise of “citizen data scientists”, who are regular employees making savvy use of data to transform effectiveness. Gartner estimates that by next year, citizen data scientists, who do not have a deep technology background, will produce even higher volumes of advanced analysis than CDOs. It is essential they have the accessible tools to succeed.

“A citizen data scientist is someone who is relatively numerate and has probably worked with some basic dashboarding tools, but they’re primarily a business person,” Mr Hinds explains. “These people are looking at things from a strategic perspective and need to be able to interrogate data to inform their decisions.” Polymatica’s system enables businesses to derive answers from data quickly, regardless of whether they have data-science expertise or not.

B&N Bank, one of Russia’s largest commercial finance firms, uses Polymatica software to model data from its marketing campaigns and has seen a 34 per cent increase in response rates after incorporating the system’s models into its workflows.

Mr Hinds says financial services firms are particularly keen on using data to inform their marketing efforts, with the aim of reaching customers with the most pertinent offers during key moments of their lives, such as when they have just bought a house or become a parent.

For many firms, analytical speed is of the essence and they want visualisations of data in seconds rather than hours

For many firms, analytical speed is of the essence and they want visualisations of data in seconds rather than hours. International cosmetics company Mary Kay uses the system to save time in compiling sales reports, enabling it to focus on finding the most valuable insights rather than trying continually to derive analysis from the raw numbers and unstructured datasets. After discovering which products are most popular in different areas, Mary Kay has optimised its collection and average order values have increased by 15 per cent.

Across industries, with smarter tools, data queries can be answered almost in real time. As companies place their success on targeted use of information, they need the right systems that enable staff throughout departments to work quickly and effectively with data.

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