• United States
Contributing Writer

Mailbag: Chief Data Officer

Apr 07, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Your thoughts on the role of Chief Data Officer

You are all gluttons for punishment. That’s my professional opinion. When I put forward the idea of creating a new c-level position called a “chief data officer,” I received an onslaught of messages saying, “sign me up” or “where do I apply.”

One respondent writes: “The CDO position would be the most powerful given that he/she [would know] about all the transactions in the company and would be called for [in] all audits and investigations into any company. Can you image the information requests that this position would get from internal and external parties? The CDO might be the one who eventually had to sign all financial reports?”

Other readers ask how the CDO post would differ from that of database architects or CIOs. The biggest differentiators for the CDO post would be its executive-level title and that it would only deal with the management and delivery of data.

To sum it up a bit better, I turn to feedback from a wise and eloquent reader.

He writes: “The current structure and roles of information and knowledge management are obsolete.”

He breaks it down like this, “Information management has become the differentiator between success and failure…The Internet has pushed all organizations toward real-time information availability and dramatically changed the way people think of IT… changing customer expectations are a driving force far too powerful for any industry to resist.

“The technical challenges are no longer the ‘nuts and bolts’ management issues they once were. In the 1960s, you needed highly skilled technical people to manage IT in large organizations. Today, the IT management function is far more about effective management, ROI, security, and other issues. It is now possible to completely outsource the entire IT component of a large organization. This is being slowly but inexorably adopted as technology matures.”

This shift in focus, he says, forces IT into other disciplines. “Information management requires expertise and focus in many areas that simply were never required before.” 

He adds: “Sarbanes-Oxley requires a clear understanding of the organization’s structure and business process, an understanding of legal issues surrounding the requirement, and the sensitivity to understand and separate information that is not required (or desirable) to be archived. Compliance carries the same liabilities as filing a document in court.

“Virus protection requires some technical knowledge, but more than anything, it requires bulldog-like persistence and vigilance. Let’s face it, the antivirus companies and Microsoft come up with the technical fixes, but keeping them applied to the appropriate machines is the real challenge. I know an IT administrator who can (and did) write programs for the space shuttle, but he got kicked by a Windows security flaw because he was too lazy to do the patch.

“Data security and reliability issues require disaster planning skills, not IT skills. I will never forget the CIO who experienced a fire in his server room. CEO joined him in the burned-out room the morning after. CIO looked stricken, but CEO was cheerful and confident because he had heard about the religious data backups that were performed. CEO asked CIO where the backup was. CIO pointed to smoldering, melted cabinet next to server. CEO fired CIO on the spot.”

His overall point is that this shift in focus to perimeter issues strengthens the need for someone to oversee the information management infrastructure. He puts it very eloquently that this isn’t your father’s IT anymore.

What do you think? Is information management a different ballgame? Let me know at