Establishment of the Chief Data Officer and the Need for a Modern Data Platform

The current climate of radical business transformation has created a heightened appetite for data-driven modernization. The chief data officer (CDO) and others responsible for data management are at the forefront, tasked with unlocking powerful insights that drive strategic direction. It’s a daunting role, providing valuable governed data that enables the latest organizational initiatives, whether its supporting the current year’s business objectives, enabling data privacy, delivering on the promise of advanced analytics, or providing gold-standard business intelligence reporting on a limited budget with a mixed bag of legacy technologies.

So how can data leaders continue to achieve data-centric business priorities while keeping disruptive technologies and future innovation top of mind? How can they effectively move the needle and the bottom-line to acquire returns that manifest in months, not years?

One key driver is simplification. Leaders must invest in teams, processes, and solutions that streamline functions, remove costly and time-consuming complexity, and provide the latest tool sets to best ingest, store, publish, and analyze complex data sets.

The Rise of the Modern Data Platform

The term “modern data platform” (MDP) has been on the rise over the last decade. With today’s proliferation of public cloud vendors, it has become closely linked with these vendors’ ecosystems and their ability to tie together functions both within and outside the data management function. But an MDP doesn’t have to encompass one single cloud vendor, a specific architecture, or a particular technology. In reality, it’s a modernized symbiotic ecosystem of your enterprise data landscape that allows for many of the data management functions to operate within a unified framework, combining tools for the curation of data with the technology to distribute it to operators, innovators, and applications.

Realizing these gains require more than just technological change; it also requires the modernization of teams, skill sets, and processes. But starting with the MDP is recommended, since the platform will be at the center of the data management function. This means that the MDP drives the skill sets required to operate the data platform as well as forcing the updating of processes and methodologies to run it most efficiently. Therefore, an MDP can be the catalyst for modernizing the entire function of a CDO.

MDPs can accelerate productivity by:

  • Standardizing tool sets
  • Removing integration points that slow the data supply chain
  • Eliminating duplicative identity and access management (IAM)
  • Removing barriers between analytics tools and the data that feeds them
  • Accelerating the availability of modern machine learning tools to data scientists, shifting the burden of security certification from IT to public cloud vendors
  • Reducing vendor contract negotiations and upgrades
  • Accelerating IT data delivery
  • Simplifying staff skill sets
  • Simplifying security audits
  • Reducing overall total cost of ownership (TCO)

If MDP isn’t currently the cornerstone of your data management strategy, your CDO may focus his or her energies on defense and risk mitigation, versus prioritizing offense and innovation.

Future-Proofing Your Data-Driven Modernization

Often, an organization’s data infrastructure resembles a Cuban car. It may have a Chevy chassis, a Ford engine, and a Volvo transmission, and may have been built by knowledgeable people and run well enough, but it is costly and time-consuming to maintain because the parts were never designed to work together.

We see this trend in business because, as we all know, the one constant is change. In the data management space, we’ve seen evolutions that include data warehousing, Hadoop, SaaS, public cloud-hosted instances, and, recently, the push to serverless cloud infrastructure. This has created the typical disjointed and problematic infrastructure with the challenges of the Cuban car, including higher maintenance, slower delivery times, lack of consistency, and more vulnerabilities.

So how do you future-proof against the constant of change? Public cloud vendors are easing the issues of change by providing complete ecosystems of functionality that are designed to work together, reducing the number of platforms, skill sets, teams, and time needed to achieve the mission.

How to Advance Your MDP Strategy within Your Organization

Large projects with nebulous returns are hard to get greenlighted. You can ask your CFO, but he or she will say, “How much does it cost, and what do I get?” Savvy CDOs know that projects that align to the business value and corporate strategy are the secret to stakeholder approval. To be successful in this endeavor, CDOs should have their cloud business case ready by compartmentalizing the different components so they’re ready to break apart and align to business initiatives as they arise, while also being ready to align their data strategy roadmap to the corporate strategy roadmap. This will allow you to move the “below the water” data strategy forward while supporting the “above the water” corporate strategy. The skill and savvy of a good CDO is critical to creating and executing this alignment.

Here are three common enterprise initiatives with significant data needs that can help CDOs advance their data strategy:

  • Digital Transformation: Requires the full suite of your data landscape to achieve the desired digital engagement across all platforms.
  • Customer experience: Requires the integration and storage of diverse customer touchpoints and blending into processes and applications that create meaningful experiences for your customers.
  • Data privacy compliance (CCPA and GDPR): Requires data lineage tracking and processes that comply with the latest customer data legislative requirements.

According to Gartner, “by 2022, 90% of corporate strategies will explicitly mention information as a critical enterprise asset….” In response, Technology and Data officers are working to wrap an MDP strategy around business imperatives and break down the components into achievable steps that fit with the more comprehensive information management strategy. As CDO, you can champion the transformation and technological change by modernizing your teams, skill sets, and processes.

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