What the Chief Data Officer needs from a data catalog investment

by | Feb 13, 2019 | Data catalogs

The stakes keep getting higher for the Chief Data Officer (CDO), and the clock is ticking. While nearly a third of them consider themselves successful at building a data-driven culture, the majority can’t do the same. In fact, the percentage of organizations that consider themselves data-driven has gotten lower over the past two years. That doesn’t bode well for CDOs’ tenure. Especially, when most executives fear disruption from more data-driven competition. And according to Gartner, only half of CDOs will be successful at all. CDOs can’t afford a bad investment. But they’re the ones tasked with building a data-driven culture.

It truly is a career-defining moment. So what’s holding CDOs back from cracking the code?

Data-driven transformation takes more than just data.

Enterprises first hired Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to bring data under control. Today, CDOs tackle much broader challenges. 

“Early CDOs were focused on data governance, data quality, and regulatory drivers, but today’s data and analytics leaders are becoming impactful change agents who are spearheading data-driven transformation,” says Valerie Logan, research director at Gartner.

Using data to drive business change isn’t just about data. The Chief Data Officer needs to solve problems that come from multiple directions:

  • Data. Of course, good, useful data remains a core piece of the CDO’s mandate. Data lives siloed in multiple places, including on-premises and the in cloud. Not all of the data is on servers and shared storage; there’s data on hard drives, laptops at home, mobile devices, and unauthorized shadow IT services. Some data may not be completely accurate, and data sources may not be known.
  • Analysis. Despite the use of analytics programs, analysis is largely a thought process that happens in people’s heads. That means the work isn’t documented or reproducible. Because it’s not preserved, the up-front work of determining what data and what approach to use needs to be repeated for every project. Because it’s not documented, you can’t see the assumptions, data, and insights behind the discoveries the analytics generate. To make analysis reproducible, you need to treat it just like data. It needs to be archived, cataloged, and understood to be used again.
  • People. Almost everyone who works in business today works with data, but they have differing levels of data literacy. Companies can’t be truly data-driven if the data is only accessible to “data elites.” Data cultures must include everyone.

So the problems the CDO needs to solve are only partly technical. In fact, Gartner found that “The top internal roadblock to the success of the office of the CDO is ‘culture challenges to accept change’.” They’re not the only ones saying that, either. 93% of executives identify people and process issues as the obstacles to building a data-driven organization. “Clearly, the difficulty of cultural change has been dramatically underestimated in these leading companies — 40.3% identify lack of organization alignment and 24% cite cultural resistance as the leading factors contributing to this lack of business adoption.” 

It takes a village to build a data-driven culture.

You must find a way to awaken your hidden data workforce. Otherwise, you’ll keep running into the same problem. “We hear little about initiatives devoted to changing human attitudes and behaviors around data. Unless the focus shifts to these types of activities, we are likely to see the same problem areas in the future that we’ve observed year after year in this survey,” according to Randy Bean and Thomas H. Davenport at NewVantage Partners. 

You can’t leave anyone behind in your cultural transformation. Or it isn’t one at all. Creating a data-driven culture requires convincing employees to adopt better data practices, fostering cross-team collaboration, as well as giving them data catalog products that help them work with it. And CDOs need more power to do so.

However, CDOs don’t need just any enterprise data catalog that’s simply a means of record keeping. They need one that makes it easy to find, understand, and use data in ways that drive business change. 

Enterprise data catalogs help Chief Data Officers build data-driven cultures.

Enterprise data catalogs include features that help the CDO achieve their top priorities. To be an data catalog, it must:

  • Support the whole enterprise. A business data catalog can’t just support people with high levels of data literacy; it needs to enable a self-service, data-driven culture that empowers everyone in the business to get more data and be smarter. Everyone should feel responsible for collaborating with data science teams to make sure they use the right data. Read more about some data catalog use cases to find the best one to start with.
  • Go beyond the basics. Early data projects are simple, so data catalog software should be simple and easy to use. As you develop experience and expand the scope of your analytics projects, your data catalog tools should have additional functionality that supports more sophisticated use cases.
  • Connect to your systems. A data catalog isn’t a complete solution by itself. There’s no way to guess the exact set of tools every business needs to work with its data. Your data catalog needs to integrate into your data ecosystem and maximize its power no matter how it evolves over time.

When you find an enterprise data catalog that brings your people, data, and analysis together, you make building a data culture a collaborative effort. Download our blueprint for How to Plan and Launch Your Modern Data Catalog to get a head start on the process.