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The CDO vapor is solidifying into enterprise reality | #MITCDOIQ

puzzled puzzle piecesTwelve months ago, predicting that the role of the CIO in its present form may eventually be replaced by a chief data officer (CDO), tasked not with managing systems but rather the information stored inside, would have earned the speaker blank stares at even the most tech savvy of organizations. During this week’s MIT CDOIQ Symposium, however, that prospect emerged as a central subject of discussion for some of the brightest minds working to help  the market adjust to the new reality of knowledge-driven decision making at the MIT CDOIQ Symposium.

SiliconANGLE’s theCUBE arrived at the university’s prestigious Cambridge, MA campus to break down how the rapid growth in the volume and variety of data pouring into the corporate network is shaking up the balance of power in the enterprise technology landscape. Wikibon co-founder Dave Vellante and principal research contributor Jeff Kelly, together with Paul Gillin, converged on the mobile studio at the end of the conference to conclude their broadcast with an in-depth summary of the journey so far.

The snowball is already rolling


Many IT leaders, especially in regulated industries such as the healthcare sector, are beginning to come to terms with the fact that the days of the traditional CIO may be numbered now that the increasing automation of IT environments is eliminating many of the problems that the role was created to address. That stance was echoed by several of the guests that appeared on theCUBE throughout the  summit.

“They were saying ‘well, I don’t have to worry about infrastructure nearly as much as I used to, I don’t provision servers anymore, I don’t stay up at night worrying about downtime. I’m doing mostly governance and strategy right now, which I like better anyway, so what if that traditional role goes away – I didn’t really like it to begin with’,” Gillin highlighted.

Another driving factor behind that transition is the accelerating adoption of cloud services in the workplace, a trend that is putting pressure on IT departments to move beyond merely supporting  users and deliver tangible business value. In conjunction, an opposite dynamic has begun to unfold among providers such as Amazon, which are now actively trying to address compliance and other requirements that don’t have a direct impact on the bottom line but top the agenda of their  corporate customers.

“You’re seeing cloud providers realize that if they want to get into the enterprise, they’ve got to adapt certain security policies and specifically in the case of Amazon, you’re seeing them bring up more and more innovation that is becoming acceptability for enterprises,” Vellante noted. Yet despite the progress being  made by the vendor ecosystem, many companies – especially in some of the regulated industries where the position of CDO is gaining the most traction today – are still hesitant about moving data outside the safety of the firewall.

Vellante, however, believes that this is bound to change eventually, due to the overwhelming economics of the cloud, which are only becoming more compelling as the top providers continue to undercut one another.  The growing adoption of managed services driven by that price war is in turn transforming CIOs into “portfolio managers”  responsible not for managing the complexity of their infrastructure but rather delivering value-added services on top, Kelly adds.

Data as the main differentiator


In parallel with moving  bigger and bigger portions of their information to the cloud, traditional enterpises are also abandoning internal software development in favor of more affordable off-the-shelf  solutions that can be customized as needed. With infrastructure and applications crossed off the list, data is left as the sole remaining source of technological differentiation for an IT organization to pursue, at which point the CIO is not necessarily the one to lead the charge.

“The differentiator is going to be how organizations monetize their data assets, as simple as that,” Kelly stated. “But there’s also the compliance and governance aspect of that as well so you’re seeing the CDO role emerge with a dual mandate: one on the governance and compliance side but also to help the organization make use of that data, show them new ways they can leverage data as an asset.”

The role of the chief data officer is centered not so much as operationalizing analytics as it is on creating a foundation for  analysts to work on, he continued. A big part of that is educating lines-of-business on how to handle information information and approach it in the context of the entire  company as opposed to just the specific goal at hand. “We heard from several interviewees these last couple of days for people out in the business to start thinking more about the value of data to the overall organization and less about the value specifically to them or their unit,” Kelly said.

The CDO’s domain of responsibility has more or less been mapped out at this point, but he stressed that nothing is yet set in stone, and the position remains very much a work-in-progress. He sees the definition becoming more clear as the growing importance of analytics to business success increases the need for a data leader to set the ground  for strategic initiatives and guide efforts to monetize digital assets.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc

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