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The chief data officer role is no longer restricted to data governance duties -- they now play a fundamental role in their organization's digital transformation journey, a recent Gartner study found. Satyen Sangani, founder and CEO of data cataloging company Alation Inc., takes it a step further, saying the CDO role has become integral to the strength of the business.
"Today, companies are asking themselves how to produce the business process that will yield the right data," Sangani said. "The CDO's role is to make data and data quality top-of-mind for every new IT investment."
In this Ask the Expert, Sangani explains how cloud investments are contributing to this evolution of the CDO role by creating new complexities and opportunities. He also highlights the top concerns for CDOs as more companies move to the cloud.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How is cloud use changing the CDO role?
Satyen Sangani: Early on, the CDO was a fairly niche position focused on regulatory compliance and risk management. Data was viewed more as a liability to be controlled, not an asset to be harvested. Not surprisingly, CDOs were most commonly found in highly regulated industries like finance, healthcare and the public sector.
In the last few years, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and IoT initiatives have shifted from small-scale experiments to ones that drive significant revenue for organizations in all types of industries. With this shift, CDOs have become important leaders focused on maximizing the value of data and the revenue those initiatives produce.
[When it comes to the CDO role], the cloud is both increasing the complexity of the job and also increasing the opportunity set. We will see more of these projects because the cloud, by-in-large, has the ultimate consequence of making both data production (e.g., application creation) and data consumption (analytics, integration, AI, etc.) easier and at lower cost. And CDOs will have greater opportunity to prove value from data initiatives. But the cloud means greater complexity around data management initiatives, because existing on-premises data isn't disappearing tomorrow.
With more companies moving to the cloud, CDOs need to be concerned with culture, building data literacy, structuring clear and well-defined goals with their peers and, finally, managing risks. The first two -- culture and data literacy -- underpin where most value will be created. The third -- structuring clear and well-defined goals -- ensures discipline and momentum for data initiatives that are broad and hard to measure. Finally, the CDOs can't just create the treasure; they have to partner with CISOs and legal to ensure that pirates don't hijack the boat.
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