Lost in the Data: Data Defensiveness Can Shorten CDO Tenure

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April 9, 2023


Chief Data Officers (CDOs) have an important role in maximizing organizational success by managing, building, and operationalizing data pipelines. 

  • Despite being a critical position, research suggests that CDOs are often short-lived in their role. 
  • The role of a CDO is a tenuous one. According to a Garner Survey, a CDO’s tenure is approximately two and a half years, whereas a CEO’s tenure is seven years.
  • One of the leading causes of this is data defensiveness, which focuses on neutralizing data threats and aims to minimize downside risk. 

There are also other challenges that CDOs face, including 

  • a poorly defined role, 
  • difficulty measuring KPIs, and 
  • a lack of cohesive data strategy. 

To extend CDO tenure, businesses need to provide the necessary tools and resources to help CDOs drastically improve their perspective on data while streamlining business operations. 

Offensive data strategies, which allow data to be more promptly available for transformation and business needs, can be beneficial. 

  • By employing data management approaches, CDOs seek to deliver a data platform that seamlessly digests, transforms, and harmonizes data across a democratized environment, leading to enhanced decision-making, supply chain operations, and cost optimization.



Lost in the Data: Data Defensiveness Can Shorten CDO Tenure

CDO Magazine
Ashwin Rajeeva,
Acceldata Co-Founder and CTO
Apr 4, 2023

Data products have become the cornerstone of organizational success. In the emerging data-driven marketplace, data products, like data warehouses, help maximize business efficiency by managing, building, and operationalizing data pipelines. 

As a result, 93% of companies plan to continue increasing their investments in this area. 

However, many don’t have the resources to manage existing data properly. 

As a result, the private sector relies on Chief Data Officers (CDOs) and other data leaders to propel organizations toward a lucrative state of digital transformation.

Enterprises increasingly recognize the importance of data products in accelerating growth. 

By appointing a CDO, businesses are equipping themselves with the proper tools to eliminate silos and improve efficiency, decision making, business outcomes, and monetization.

The CDO is a senior executive who manages enterprise-wide governance and optimization of digital information assets to ensure that the business gets the most value from its data. 

This new generation of CDOs has partial or total responsibility for a multitude of complex infrastructures, including a diverse, multi-cloud setup that includes ERP systems, Salesforce instances, traditional databases, data lakes and other big data deployments, and cloud-native data warehouses. 

Because of this, CDOs constantly have to tinker and adjust their infrastructure to help deliver more business value from the massive amounts of data. 

By utilizing complex systems and strategies, CDOs can identify and act on opportunities to build data products, improve data analytics, and manage other related processes. 

Whether data is structured or unstructured, a CDO ensures data is accessible and protected to help engineer the “right” data products — a critical competitive differentiator.

As modern data environments become more complex, businesses are entering a new stage of learning how to optimize the CDO role in cultivating organizational success. 

The lack of industry knowledge about a CDO’s role, intense stakeholder demands, and heightened susceptibility to burnout has resulted in CDOs failing to stay put.

Organizations must find a way to help extend CDO tenure. 

As the amount of data managed by enterprise organizations grows exponentially, so do the CDO’s responsibilities. 

By providing the necessary tools and resources, organizations can help CDOs drastically improve their perspective on data while streamlining business operations.


The CDO Lens: Viewing Current CDOs’ Challenges

The growth of the CDO role has surged in recent years. According to a research study by NewVantage Partners, 65% of firms have a chief data officer in place, a 52% increase from 2012. 

This trend reflects the recognition of data products as essential business assets and determining the proper means to manage them.

As CDO roles play a prominent part in organizations’ success, businesses still fail to maintain high retention rates. 

Research suggests that the role of a CDO is a tenuous one. According to a Garner Survey, a CDO’s tenure is approximately two and a half years, whereas a CEO’s tenure is seven years. 

One of the leading causes is data defensiveness.

Data defensiveness focuses on neutralizing data threats and aims to minimize downside risk. 

In this position, organizations usually employ activities such as ensuring regulatory compliance, detecting fraud, and preventing theft. 

Defense strategies are essential to an organization’s decision-making process, but adhering to them poses challenges to CDOs and organizations. 

Differing views coupled with similar data can become a common challenge for CDOs to mitigate risk and ensure the efficiency of an organization’s data landscape. 

Other current challenges CDOs face include the following:

1.Poorly Defined Role: The CDO is a relatively new role with several responsibilities. As a result, the CDO’s role doesn’t adhere to a standard set of functions. Many organizations expect too much of their CDOs without clearly defining job expectations, thus placing CDOs in a difficult position. Often, CDOs have limited influence, authority, and decision making.

2.Challenge with Measuring KPIs: CDOs can find it challenging to sell their achievements effectively to business audiences. Even if there are improvements in data reliability, it is often invisible to internal users and difficult to measure. While CDOs have extensive data expertise, a lack of C-suite experience can place them at a disadvantage beginning on day one.

3.Lack of cohesive data strategy and misalignment with lines of business: Today’s leaders seek a unified 360-degree view of their data to optimize their business strategies. However, current-day organizations have to deal with multiple business-driven and technical silos, making it difficult for CDOs to integrate and manage data assets effectively. CDOs need the proper tools to help streamline processes and promote collaboration among teams for improved data management.


Expanding CDOs’ Tenure

Data product strategies must be tied to business unit goals and use the right balance between defensive and offensive data strategies. 

Once these goals are defined, CDOs can begin building data management approaches. 

Ultimately, CDOs seek to deliver a data platform that seamlessly digests, transforms, and harmonizes data across a democratized environment.

Using a strategy for enterprise data improves an organization’s data journey by eliminating silos to enhance decision making, supply chain operations, and cost optimization. 

The challenge is determining the appropriate trade-offs between offense and defense and how those trade-offs will affect the company’s overall business goals.

Offensive data strategies allow data to be more promptly available for transformation and business needs. 

The more controlled data is, the easier it is to enact defensive actions. 

In an ideal environment, achieving a 50/50 balance is optimal — but unrealistic. 

Instead, organizations should review competitors’ data capabilities and the regulatory environment to determine how much of a balance to accrue.

With the increased need for data in enterprises, organizations expect to see a greater C-suite acceptance of the CDO role. 

However, despite this growing acceptance, companies must prioritize adopting the right policies and tools to support the CDO’s mission. 

Doing so will be a positive step toward promoting longevity within the position.

To resolve these ongoing concerns, industry professionals propose establishing a definitive connection between business strategies and how data analytics can drive outcomes by leading forward-thinking business partners serving as organizational change agents.

About the Author 

Ashwin Rajeeva, Acceldata Co-Founder and CTO, is a seasoned technology leader with 15-plus years of experience as a data-intensive software system developer, consultant, and architect. Before founding Acceldata, Ashwin was a software architect at Hortonworks, where he led the development of DataPlane hybrid cloud data services. When he met Rohit Choudhary (Acceldata Co-Founder and CEO), both were inspired to start Acceldata to address the problem of multi-million dollar data initiatives failing due to the lack of a holistic view of data processing, data, and data pipelines across the enterprise.

CDOs can provide a more suitable working environment in determining data strategies by establishing scalable and sustainable data analytic products to accelerate time to value in business units. Data observability has become a lucrative asset to many organizations.

Data observability provides a framework for data teams to gain a holistic view of the health of data in their systems. Data observability tools use automated monitoring, alerting, and triaging to identify and evaluate data quality. Here is how data observability can benefit CDOs:

By implementing comprehensive data product strategies and tools, organizations can help CDOs access breakthrough data and help them be more effective. Companies must learn to value the CDO’s role and, in turn, provide adequate resources, expectations, and support to ensure these roles are maximized and continue to be an asset in organizational success.

Originally published at https://www.cdomagazine.tech on April 4, 2023.

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