Do You Need A Chief Data Officer?

You’ve heard it before but we said it again – this time in our recent webinar. There's a new kid in town: the chief data officer. Why the new role?  Because of an increasing awareness of the value of data and the painful recognition of an inability to take advantage of the opportunities that it provides — due to technology, business, or basic cultural barriers. That was the topic of our webinar presented to a full house a few days ago; we discussed our recent report, Top Performers Appoint Chief Data Officers. Fortunately for those who weren’t there, the presentation – Chief Data Officers Cross The Chasm – is available (to clients) for download.

As the title suggests, chief data officers are no longer just for the early adopters – those enthusiasts and visionaries on the forefront of new technology trends.  With 45% of global companies having appointed a chief data officer (not to be confused with a chief digital officer, as we specifically asked about “data”) and another 16% planning to make an appointment in the next 12 months – according to Forrester's Business Technographics surveys, the role of the chief data officer really has move into the mainstream. 

However, there remain many companies who are not sure of whether they need a CDO or not.  Many of those in our audience fell into that category.  We asked two questions of the audience to gauge their interest and their actions to improve their data maturity:

  • Are you making organizational changes specifically to improve your data capabilities?
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You May Not Need A CDO - But Wouldn’t You Want To Improve Your Odds Of Success

Gene Leganza and I just published a report on the role of the Chief Data Officer that we’re hearing so much about these days – Top Performers Appoint Chief Data Officers.  To introduce the report, we sat down with our press team at Forrester to talk about the findings, and the implications for our clients.

Forrester PR: There's a ton of fantastic data in the report around the CDO. If you had to call out the most surprising finding, what would top your list?

Gene:  No question it's the high correlation between high-performing companies and those with CDOs. Jennifer and I both feel that strong data capabilities are critical for organizations today and that the data agenda is quite complex and in need of strong leadership. That all means that it's quite logical to expect a correlation between strong data leadership and company performance - but given the relative newness of the CDO role it was surprising to see firm performance so closely linked to the role.

Of course, you can't infer cause and effect from correlation – the data could mean that execs in high-performing companies think having a CDO role is a good idea as much as it could mean CDOs are materially contributing to high performance. Either way that single statistic should make one take a serious look at the role in organizations without clear data leadership. 

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Coming Of Age, Not Mid-Life Crisis: Cities Are Ready...

Smart cities are a myth.  But cities are now finally ready to invest in new technology.  No, I don’t find those two sentences contradictory. Yes, I do finally feel like the hype of smart cities is fading.  And, yes, I do think the promise still holds much potential for cities. But boy have I tired of hearing smart, smart, smart, smart, smart (somehow 5 times sounded right to me, or should I say sounded “smart”). 

Back in 2010 I wrote a lengthy report on the smart city opportunity for vendors. At the time my research was focused on vendors, and as the vendors were all worked up about smart cities it made sense to put some structure around the opportunity.  What were the primary market drivers?  What issues were cities currently facing or expecting to face in the future?  Anyone who has attended a talk on smart cities knows the drill ad naseam:  population explosion, urbanization, startling impact on city services (transportation, waste and water management, public safety, health, education etc.)  And, I’m just as guilty.  The slide at the right was from my first webinar on smart cities in 2010.

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Beyond Light: Smart Lighting Illuminates More Than Streets

Gone are the days when the only signal a streetlight sent out was that it was time to go home on a summer evening.  Many kids grew up with that rule.  My mom had a cowbell, which was infinitely more embarrassing but likely more effective in calling us home. But times have changed. We now text our kids to get them home for dinner.  And, street lights themselves would no longer deign to serve just that purpose. 

Streetlights these days do provide light (and do that much more efficiently), but they just might be your source of Wi-Fi or of information on the weather, air quality, traffic, and parking availability, or might be the city’s source of information on you.  They will also be a platform for new services that leverage all of the data the new light poles collect through their embedded sensors, or also a source of electricity to power digital signs through solar-energy. These new and improved streetlights are becoming increasingly popular as they demonstrate a clear cost-savings over their predecessors and promise the potential for revenue generation through new applications and services.  That is a win-win for cities, citizens and the ecosystem of potential application and service providers out there. 

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Data Today Keeps The Doctor Away

In scanning through my O’Reilly Data Newsletter today, I noticed A Healthy Dose of Data, an MIT Sloan case study on the data and analytics culture at Intermountain, a healthcare network that runs 22 hospitals and 185 clinics.  The study is definitely worth the read.  It reviews the history of data use at Intermountain, which began way before the “big data” craze of recent years.  In fact, it was back in the 1950s that one of the Intermountain cardiologists, Homer Warner, began to explore clinical data to understand why some heart patients experienced better outcomes than others.  He went on to become known as the “father of medical informatics – the use of computer programs to analyze patient data to determine treatment protocols,” and with colleagues designed and launched their first decision-support tool. 

The case study goes on to describe how Intermountain has cultivated a strong data and analytics culture. Over time – Rome was not built in a day, as they say – they established data maturity across the organization by investing in the capacity (new tools and technologies), developing the competencies (new skills and processes) and finally spreading the culture (awareness, understanding and best practices) of data and analytics. Their analytical approach brought results – fewer surgical infections, more effective use of antibiotics, less time in intensive care etc – contributing to lower costs, better medical outcomes, and overall patient satisfaction.

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Beyond Show-Me-The-Money: Tech Jobs Require More Than Tax Incentives

 

A Mission of MercyEconomic development means different things to different people. It depends on their context.  In my early work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa development meant bringing running water to villages.  My town was the new recipient of a public water system from the Danish Aid Agency.

But broadly speaking, economic development initiatives are efforts to attract investment to a region.  For most places, it’s not about running water but about creating jobs.  And, some of the best jobs out there – in demand and high paying – are in technology or in software development more specifically.  Software is the future.  And, many cities, states and countries want to get in on the act.  Yes, many of the software development jobs will go to product development shops but they need to hire from somewhere and government leadersare hoping to bring those jobs to their constituents.

A classic strategy for attracting investment to a region is to provide tax incentives.   We’ll give you a break on your corporate taxes for a period of time if you bring your new headquarters or factory or research facility to our region.  A quick search reveals many such programs. Apparently Texas is “wide open for business” and is willing to provide tax abatements and local incentives. 

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Anticipating Mobile World Congress 2015: Connectivity Trumps Mere Mobility

 

infographic-imageWe are now only a few weeks away from Mobile World Congress, historically the pre-eminent event of the mobile industry and now one of the largest global events across all industries. Last year’s even attracted almost 90,000 attendees from over 200 countries.  The event draws representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors, content owners and governments from across the world.  Executives from all industries pay attention to products demonstrated and announcements made.  While “mobile” remains in the event title, last year’s event marked a changing of the guard:  The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook reflected that shift away from the event’s telecom roots.  This year that shift will be even more pronounced as the reign of mobility gives way to the new rule of connectivity.  Yes, we are mobile but the key is that while we are roaming the halls at work or the streets of a foreign city, we remain connected to the people and things we want and need to interact with. 

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Embrace Shared Services To Improve Outcomes–Not Only For Cost Savings

The perennial call for public sector reform has not slackened. The pain of austerity measures and the pressures for increased efficiency heighten that call.  And, the hype around “smart cities” amps up the pressure for municipal leaders faced with decisions about which problems to attack first, and which tools are most appropriate.  But most organizations are not starting from a clean slate. That’s exactly the issue. In most cases we’re talking about reform, about doing things differently, not starting from scratch. 

When we asked government leaders what their top priorities are, improving the customer experience comes in on top: 68% report the customer experience is either a high or critical priority.  But reducing costs is right up there with it. That’s the age-old do-more-with-less mantra.  And, from a technology perspective their top priority is to upgrade or replace legacy systems, which might not sound like the wiz bang “smart” technology we’ve been hearing so much about.  But it’s likely the smartest thing these governments can do; and when they do, they should do it together. 

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Update On The DATA Act: Nearing Nine Months

Well, it’s now been about nine months, and time to check in on the gestation of the DATA Act.  But before we start on what’s happened since the law passed on May 9, 2014, let’s take a quick look at what it is, and what government organizations have to work with.

This bipartisan legislation – jointly sponsored by two democrats and two republicans – is an effort to modernize the way the government collects and publishes spending information – in particular by establishing standard elements and formats for the data. The new law assigns responsibility for the task, sets out a four-year timetable for implementation, and establishes a strict oversight regime to measure compliance in the adoption of the standards and the subsequent quality and timeliness of the published spending data. That oversight is the big difference between the DATA Act and the previous legislation to improve funding transparency.  This time someone is watching, and the law has teeth.

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The DATA Act Just Might Fulfill Jeffersonian Hopes For Transparency

 “[W]e might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union, should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.”

Thomas Jefferson to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, 1 April 1802

Governments have made enormous progress in improving their transparency – thus increasing accountability. While the “union” is not quite there, implementation of the DATA Act with new standards for financial reporting and data publication will move the bar forward.  In the meantime, local governments demonstrate numerous best practices. Thomas Jefferson would likely give a nod to many of the cities and states that have published checkbook-level details of their budgets. 

Checkbook NYC Demonstrates Transparency

In July of 2010 the New York City Comptroller’s Office launched Checkbook NYC, an online transparency tool that for the first time placed the City’s day-to-day spending in the public domain.  Using an intuitive dashboard approach that combines a series of graphs and user-friendly tables, Checkbook NYC provides up-to-date information about the City's financial condition.

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