I saw the announcement of the Cutter Report on the proposed “Chief Data Officer” role, by Larissa Moss and Sid Adelman, and I have a problem with its message. Thank goodness that differences of opinion are accepted and even encouraged among Cutter consultants!
I have absolutely no problem with stressing the importance of data in the enterprise, and the need to govern that data. On the contrary, I love information architecture, master data management, and other related concepts. I’ve quoted Larissa Moss before, because she said some really important things a number of years ago, before anyone else did. There.
But if we need Chief Data Officers, it means that we have failed miserably at defining and implementing the role of the Chief Information Officers. After all:
- Data should be part of information, right?
- The whole deal about the CIO title was that his/her role was broader than just Information Technology.
Now I’ve seen companies where the successor to a CIO was named “VP of IT,” and where this “demotion through succession” sent a clear signal: please, new person, take care of our PCs, our network and our security, oh and of course, especially take care of reducing our IT costs by 5% each year for as long as you’re in the job, but don’t come and tell us anything about business strategy, because the big guys (yes, it’s usually guys) know all about that, and you don’t.
Now, if the C-suite occupants have that attitude, why would they name a CDO? They obviously don’t understand the importance of information management (perhaps because no one explained it to them well, by the way), and the same reasons that made them limit the role of the CIO — and even eliminate that title — are going to prevent them from assigning another person to handle data governance. Conversely, where executives experience the epiphany that data is a key asset of the organization and needs to be managed as such, then the right solution should not be, in my opinion, to assign a CDO, but to restore the CIO to his/her rightful place in the company.