As governments at all levels recognize how data and analytics (D&A) can help improve their services and outcomes, many are recruiting chief data officers (CDOs) to help build data science capabilities. However, these newly-hired executives are wise to take careful, initial steps to overcome typical policy, organizational, cultural and technical barriers, to help their agencies gain full value from the vast data at their disposal.
While the CDO title is relatively new in the government and commercial realms, many organizations have found it invaluable to have executive-level oversight of their D&A activities.
This c-suite leader can serve as a D&A champion, while promoting data-sharing among groups, setting data policies to create standardization of data assets, and establishing enterprise data governance. They often also lead enterprise data strategies, develop ‘data as a service’ to department ‘clients’, and coordinate cross-agency analytics initiatives.
If the CDO’s job scope sounds broad, the challenge is compounded by the fact that governments often have multiple, distributed data silos and, frequently, antiquated data management infrastructures that impact data quality. In addition, the absence of data governance structures, or an internal culture of data sharing, can make the CDO task large and time-consuming.
In light of the diverse challenges CDOs face, they must find ways to effectively meet the needs of their agencies’ clients and make the most powerful impact with the available resources.
Based on industry leading practices, and experience from successful D&A engagements, here are some prudent initial steps for a CDO to head a successful program:
While the sequence or prioritization of the planning steps a CDO should take will naturally vary depending on an organization’s specific needs and priorities, they form invaluable building blocks to help the D&A leader chart a solid strategy.
One caveat is that in government, objectives and priorities can shift suddenly, along with budgets, changes in administration or mandates. So CDOs must be prepared to revisit, reevaluate and revise their D&A initiatives accordingly.
Despite the challenges of building a data culture in government, the potential applications of D&A are endless. Under the leadership of a capable CDO, governments can break down silos to better share information, develop standards and best practices, and effectively tap into data assets to achieve better outcomes for their citizens.
About the author: Viral Chawda is a managing director of KPMG’s Data and Analytics Center of Excellence. Over the past 19 years he has helped large commercial and government organizations to optimize and monetize their data assets.