How to get your information overload under control in 100 days

A relatively new innovation, the chief data officer, will soon be a feature of the vast majority of organisations.

If you don't have any plans to appoint a chief data officer (CDO) in your organisation, it is about time you started thinking about it. And if Gartner is to be believed, you'd better get onto it pretty quickly.

The analysts predict that by the end of 2019, 90 percent of IT operations will have a CDO in place. The aim will be simple, in theory at least: to make better use of the company's information assets.

That's easy to say, but Gartner warns that it will be a lot more difficult in practice. They believe that only 50 percent of organisations will be able to achieve that goal within 100 days. The main issue will be the newness of the role -- what will a CDO do?


Gartner's Faria: "The success of a CDO will to a large extent depend on his or her ability to lead the change."

Photo: Gartner

Gartner is keen to point out that it is not really difficult to understand the issues. Most organisations will be aware that they are sitting on a lot of information -- just consider the amount of data sitting in invoicing and the main other accounting systems. Then there is all the information being collected by the waves of CRM systems and the systems that they spawn.

CDOs will have "the difficult task of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that tie the activities of their team to measurable business outcomes", the analysts believe.

Organisations are beginning to grasp the huge potential of digital business and the increasing demands for better use of the information assets that organisatons have at their disposal, according to Gartner VP Mario Faria. "It's a logical step to create an executive position -- the CDO -- to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from industrial-scale collection and harnessing of data," he said.

Gartner has six recommendations for new CDOs to help them overcome common challenge:

  • Create an enterprise information management strategy based on the organisation's business strategy and predominant value discipline.
  • Work tirelessly to build trust with various business stakeholders, especially the CIO,
  • Educate senior leaders and peers about the role that data and information play in overall business success.
  • Establish baselines on information governance and data monetisation from which progress can be measured.
  • Tie quantifiable information metrics to quantifiable business key performance indicators to demonstrate tangible success.
  • Adopt formal information asset measures and share them with the organisation.

Becoming a CDO: Here are the steps to anticipate -- but how long it will take to work through will be down to the budding CDO and the organisation.

Illustration: Gartner

While that list illustrates what has to be done, Gartner also offers help in how this is to be achieved. The diagram (above) gives a methodology for working through the five steps of this approach. Gartner believes that a timescale of 90 to 100 days is reasonable for the average organisation.

Fario believes that it is also important that managers account for the "soft skills" when adopting a CDO role. "The success of a CDO will to a large extent depend on his or her ability to lead the change as well as gain the enthusiasm, support, and resources of business leaders and other key business units," he said.

Read more tech business leadership articles