Why Use Data? CDOs Share Their Insights

I attended the IBM Chief Data Officer (CDO) Summit in San Francisco in late March and was inspired by the speakers who shared insights, stories, and even lessons learned from lack of success. There were so many solid points to ponder, but I’ve distilled my takeaways into these nuggets.

What’s in it for me to use data? Or, what’s data doing for you?

Well, are you an innovator? Do you need to demonstrate personal and organizational value? Or are you trying to ensure your organization survives? Using data demonstrates your commitment to value, results, and tangible/quantifiable differentiators. As data volumes double every 18-20 months in hyper-competitive landscapes, it’s quite simply “survival of the fittest.” Use data for operations, strategy, and visioning, or you may be out of business.

Governance is truth as a service.

I have always talked about the need for transparency and trust, and thought this phrase was particularly compelling. Governance builds trust through clear objectives, metrics, and transparency. While governance creates insight, it must be part of a story. On its own, insight from data is not enough. You must be able to translate that data and insight into a story, and this story must be clear, concise, and simple.

Quick wins are important.

As data governance organizations and frameworks are designed, remember to strive for quick wins that demonstrate value and help others understand the need for data governance. These quick wins will also aid in engaging the multi-stakeholder community that is essential to your governance success.

Use data to drive innovation.

Using data to drive or validate innovation initiatives is smart, as data can become the common language that everyone will use to understand and embrace the innovation initiative. This is especially important since agility should go hand in hand with innovation, and quickly understanding the data derived from the innovative activity is essential to sound decision-making.

Use data to advance change management.

Data can help an organization be transparent and advance change in an existing structure (as opposed to innovation which is generally is bringing in something new), which is frequently challenging since internal politics, fiefdoms, and inertia can be impediments. Data allows organizations to strip hidden agendas, like control, that may be impeding change.

These great nuggets came from Chief Data Officers, Strategy and Marketing Executives, and Analytic and Business Intelligence Executives who crossed all industries and market sectors. It was refreshing to hear their successes and the common themes of value, trust, and story-telling. And, it was personally satisfying to see that about 1/3 of the speakers came from healthcare. I shall keep this list handy as I engage with colleagues and organizations, and hope it provides food for thought for my readers.