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Leading the data pack: #ChiefDataSF 2016

If you’ve spent any time in the data management space, you know that the Chief Data Officer (CDO) is one of the hottest new roles in the industry. While the CDO position has been talked about a lot lately, most of the people who are actually in the role have never held this title before. This can be exciting and rewarding as you get to build your data program from the ground up, but also stressful since you don’t necessarily have a clear roadmap for success.

I’ve spent more than a year researching and networking with CDOs at organizations of all types and sizes. When I was alerted to the Chief Data Officer Summit in San Francisco, I dusted off my Giants baseball hat and hit the road.  It’s exciting to see that this position is finally garnering enough traction to warrant events that are dedicated to bringing these folks together. 

This event, hosted by Innovation Enterprise, attracted more than 150 industry experts for interactive workshops, data management case studies, and the opportunity to talk about their experiences creating data policies, building governance programs, and using analytics for strategic decision-making. There were a ton of great conversations throughout the event (check out #ChiefDataSF on Twitter) but here are my top three takeaways from this year’s CDO Summit in San Francisco: 

  1. Organizations are using open data for good. Several of the speakers talked about the benefits of open data. From deploying first responders to help those in greatest need during natural disasters and allowing farmers in Africa to use digital payment systems, to crowd-sourcing the residents of Paolo Alto for street repairs and planning for self-driving cars, organizations are doing some really powerful things with open data. We can really do some truly amazing things that make a major impact in peoples’ lives with data.

  2. “People aren’t afraid of technology—they’re afraid of change.” Fawad Butt, Chief Data Governance Officer at Kaiser Permanente left me with this powerful quote, and I think he’s absolutely right. One of the main focus areas for Chief Data Officers (or similar roles) is acting as an agent for fundamental changes to the way that organizations manage their data. It’s not that people are afraid of adopting new, powerful technology. More often than not, they’re simply afraid of changing the way they’ve been doing things for years or even decades.

  3. Businesses want to leverage analytics to make smarter business decisions, but the data has to be quality. Cool analytics and business intelligence tools are great, but if you’re looking at graphs and charts with data that isn’t accurate, you can’t make data-driven decisions. Do you want to make sure your data is of the highest quality? Check out Experian Pandora to manage your data quality!

With such a wide breadth of industries in attendance, I had an opportunity to better understand some of the core challenges that all data professionals face. From financial services and retail to technology and public sector, I really enjoyed learning what other organizations are doing to tackle major business challenges around data governance, analytics, and business intelligence.

Want to learn more about the challenges that CDOs are facing today? Check our research study, The Chief Data Officer: Bridging the gap between data and decision-making.

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