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Gartner 2019 Data & Analytics Summit Recap: The State and Future of the CDO

It’s an exciting week to be a data analyst. The 2019 Gartner Data & Analytics Summit is a chance for me to learn about the hottest trends from the leading experts in the industry. This year, I wanted to do more than just attend the sessions, I wanted to find a way to pass the ideas back to the analyst community.

Today, I attended “The State and Future of the Office of the CDO: Gartner 2018 Chief Data Officer Survey,” presented by Michael Moran. The session covered the results of Gartner’s CDO survey, with an emphasis on the growth of the position and how data teams are impacting businesses as they grow. Here are a couple of the big takeaways:

Companies need CDOs

A couple of years ago, it may have been overly ambitious to expect companies to be creating c-level positions for a data (or analytics) leader, but that has changed. Gartner’s research shows that the role is now established to the point that half of the companies in their survey had a data/analytics leader reporting to a top business executive. While half of Gartner’s survey respondents expect to remain at their current title, 30% expect to use their data responsibilities as a launching point to achieve a CEO, COO or CIO title next. This is overwhelming proof that in just a short amount of time, data analysis has proven extremely valuable to companies that have made an investment in it.

Expand the scope of data goals

Most of today’s companies use data for what Moran called “defensive” value. They collect information about their current performance and processes, then look backward for findings that will increase efficiency. This descriptive data can be good at reducing wasteful efforts or infusing customer data into the existing product, but it doesn’t create new areas of value. There’s a huge opportunity to use the same data as a means of identifying new product offerings or even exchanging that data for additional value. For example, business partners can share information to allow multiple companies to gain value from the same set of data. In some cases, data can even be used as a type of currency and exchanged for other data or things a company finds valuable.

Balancing data tactics vs. business strategy

In these early years of data teams, CDOs are focused on tactical operations like defining master data, delivery of dashboards and completing individual projects. These data teams need to figure out how to operate and perform their baseline activities, but there needs to be a move to get more strategic soon, similar to how R&D or Supply Chain organizations are driving value. Data teams don’t just exist to run reports and provide metrics for other teams, they exist to push the entire company toward a more data-centric culture. When the data team is operating at its best, it’s in charge of both tactical data activities and the longer-term strategy to improve the entire company’s data fluency.

Culture as a success factor and a roadblock

For most companies, the data team’s success relies on the broader company embracing a data-centric approach. The CDOs in Gartner’s survey identified “creating a data-driven culture” as the top activity associated with success for their team. At the same time, the same CDOs identified “culture challenges to accept change” as the biggest roadblock for their team. There are other funding and resource obstacles to clear before data teams can unlock their true potential, but I have a feeling that a cultural adjustment to prioritize data would take care of those other roadblocks too.

If you liked reading this summary, be sure to come back to the blog tomorrow to check out my notes from Gartner's “The Future of Data and Analytics: Tales and Trends From the Center to the Edge” session.

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Chris Meier
Chris joined Periscope Data to spread his love of all things data. When he isn’t diving into the data depths of the warehouse, you’ll find him outside droning and taking photos.