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The evolving role of the CDO

This week, I attended the FIMA (Financial Information Management) Data Management conference in Boston. While I have heard of this conference, I have not attended in the past. I was excited to hear what the industry experts had to say over the course of two and a half days.

As you can guess, the talk tracks all centered around financial topics. So while I often talk about data governance with customers, data governance here would almost always be accompanied by BCBS 239 and Solvency II. I heard and learned a lot of new terms—Reference Data Utilities, Legal Entity Identifier, etc. But in the end, everyone has challenges with data management, governance, quality, analytics, etc.

The opening remark was given by Peter Serenita, Group CDO at HSBC. He talked about the evolution of his own role—the Chief Data Officer (CDO)—across industries and companies. In the beginning, there was CDO 1.0. CDO 1.0 was very interested in data governance and data management. He focused on getting the right tooling, infrastructure, etc. to ensure that every piece of data has ownership well defined, and every asset has a single source of truth. But he did not have a clear reason for the implementation. At financial institutions, the CDO was heavily influenced by the risk officers. And he played a very “defensive” game.

CDO 2.0 is very focused on driving business value. He’s all about analytics and big data. Getting results was the main goal. But in his haste to get business value, he rushed on his data strategy and thus had a weak governance framework. So he was constantly struggling with data quality and limited to a subset of data that he could rely on.

What happened between 1.0 and 2.0 was a classic case of the pendulum swinging too far. Peter is calling for a CDO 3.0—a slight correction back to the firm defensive stance while still keeping focus of generating business value. In fact, one side effect of this correction is the appearance of an additional responsibility of the CDO—analytics. And hence the emergence of more and more CDAO. With analytics, now we can throw in all the other trends like predictive analytics, machine learning, and AI.

In short, the CDO has evolved from playing a defensive game to a more supportive game. I do think that this evolution is in many ways aligned with the bi-modal IT that Gartner has been advocating for. And it is a trend that will continue to affect how organizations manage data, how vendors develop future products, and how we move into the next chapter of data.

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