Chief Data Officers (CDOs) face a multitude of challenges when it comes to deciding how to foster and lead a data-driven agency. To overcome these challenges and successfully deliver on the mission they must be prepared to move from a defensive to an offensive data strategy.
According to Joe DosSantos, CDO of Qlik, who spoke at QlikWorld 2020, it’s necessary to shift the school of thought for both individual agencies and the federal government as a whole from using data defensively to offensively. In this way, data can be used to enhance and increase mission scalability and meet agency goals. Once data is leveraged offensively, agencies are better suited to put their data integration and analytics tools to work most effectively.
DosSantos also explained at QlikWorld 2020, what an interesting time it is for data professionals, all of whom are trying to grapple with how to make their own organizations work and function in accordance with the Federal Data Strategy. “[Much like you], I’ve had to develop a culture that’s going to promote the use of data in a proper way [and] that’s going to control the access of data,” explained DosSantos.
Incorporated in the Federal Data Strategy are several actions, and one of the most important actions is the hiring of CDOs. CDOs are responsible for developing best practices for data governance – like moving from a defensive to an offensive data strategy — and data sharing in addition to determining continued ways that data can be used for policymaking. The problem is that not all agencies are rooted in a culture of data literacy, requiring CDOs to not only oversee and determine strategy, but also serve as change agents. The key to driving value and making data a priority across an agency is no easy feat. It’s also difficult when siloed data and other barriers are commonplace.
“Who’s great at this analytic universe? It’s Amazon, it’s Google, it’s people who are not necessarily as encumbered by regulatory landscapes. So, this feels somewhat limiting. For someone that works in the government, think about what the government strategy suggests – ethical governance, governance and protection of data, promoting efficient use,” explained DosSantos. “But we have to acknowledge those are really about the defensive orientation of data. So, how do we start to position ourselves in a different kind of light?”
The role of a CDO, especially in the public sector, is a challenging one. Between maneuvering a regulatory environment and working to create a cultural shift –prioritizing data literacy – throughout the entire federal government, there’s a lot to be done. However, these goals are entirely attainable, and they start with shifting the focus from using data defensively to offensively.
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