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Chief data officers ‘essential’ to big data success

Organisations that invest in skilled executives to manage their big data analytics projects are better-placed to see success in this area than those that do not, a new report has indicated.

A study of US federal agencies conducted by MeriTalk and ViON Corporation revealed that almost all these bodies (92 per cent) use big data to some degree. However, the majority (58 per cent) graded the effectiveness of their data management strategy as C or worse.

Therefore, having the right personnel on hand to control the direction of such projects will be invaluable. The study found that 88 per cent of organisations with a chief data officer (CDO) leading these efforts report these executives have had a positive impact on their performance.

Meanwhile, 93 per cent of agencies that currently lack a CDO agreed that employing one would have a positive effect on their big data strategies.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of organisations that do not have a CDO stated their agency lacks leadership when it comes to big data analytics efforts. Organisations with a CDO are also more likely to successfully incorporate big data analytics into their decision making than those without (61 per cent compared with 28 per cent).

Rodney Hite, director of big data and analytics solutions at ViON, said that as organisations are being inundated with huge amounts of data every day, how they manage this information and turn it into insight will be critical.

"Implementing a CDO ensures your agency is focusing the right amount on mission-critical data management goals – while storing and protecting data throughout the process," he continued. "Regardless of whether an agency has one or not, the majority – 57 per cent – believe the CDO will be the hero of big data and analytics."

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) or organisations with a CDO say this individual has taken ownership of data management and governance issues. The primary responsibilities of these personnel include centralising an organisation's data (55 per cent), protecting this information (51 per cent) and improving the quality of data (49 per cent).

Other areas where CDOs have influence include coping with open government data efforts, bridging the gap between IT and operations and "leveraging data to help set and achieve realistic goals".

However, although the benefits of having a CDO are clear, many agencies are not giving these personnel the support they need. The research found just one in four organisations (25 per cent) have a deputy CDO, while the same number have a chief data scientist and only 29 per cent have a chief analytics officer.

This is a situation that is unlikely to change in the near future, as less than a quarter of survey respondents expect to be hiring for any of these roles in the next two years.

However, the good news is that 92 per cent of agencies report their CDO has a strong working relationship with the chief information officer, which ensures the organisation is able to keep pace with the technological realities of big data and analytics.