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10 chief data officer trends that are reshaping the role


6. From liability to opportunity

Kenneth Sanford, principal at Distill Data Science, a data science consultancy, said GDPR and CCPA accentuated the need for CDOs to focus on limiting the potential downsides of data. However, COVID-19 and the resulting economic pressure are driving CDOs to focus on the potential of using data opportunistically.

This could affect the qualities boards look for as they bring on new candidates. CDOs have primarily had legal backgrounds, due in part to many CEOs seeing data as a liability. Sanford said that this has been a mistake.

“Those with legal backgrounds lack meaningful training in working with and understanding data,” Sanford said. To take advantage of the opportunistic aspects of data, CDOs should have a formal education in data analysis.

When business leaders truly understand the context data is created in, they see the potential to explain and predict outcomes that create business value, such as increasing customer satisfaction scores, reducing churn and more.

“These skills can be taught to business leaders, and it doesn’t involve any sophisticated math or computer science or even a computer,” Sanford said. “It requires curiosity and a desire to explain outcomes.”

Analytics-first thinkers are opportunistic with data. Up-sell and cross-sell models are created The legal-first CDO will be quick to limit or eliminate potential PII issues, whereas the opportunistic CDO will look for creative ways to use these data sets within the spirit of the applicable laws. Having a deep understanding of the methods of analytics is required for this.


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