Do or Die: 5 Data Analytics Project Pitfalls you Must Avoid

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“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford

I’ve seen this quote referenced so many times with regards to data and analytics technologies and it seems so perfectly apt. With the rise of Big Data and analytics we have seen a surge of investment in the various tools and technologies – en masse. Yet, not everyone is delivering the innovative business insights they were anticipating for success.  Open source technology has reduced the barriers to entry, making it all the more tempting to implement them in a “me too” style. Implementing the same tools as the rest of the crowd and trying to do it better is not likely to benefit you unless there is a clear need for your business.

During my recent research in developing the Chief Data and Analytics Officer Forum, Melbourne,  I came across some of the key reasons why organisations are unable to leverage their data for innovation.

Top 5 Issues to Address:

1.      Lack of an enterprise-wide strategy. In a recent post about the data disconnect, it touched on the importance of a carefully managed data analytics strategy. Data strategy must it be effectively communicated across the business and underwritten by well-developed organisational support in order for it to become an inherent part of the way an organisation operates.

2.      Lacking the right skillset. People are often searching for the perfect blend of IT and business experience and there is much debate around whether that skillset should be recruited or built internally. Not having the right skillset at the right time can be fatal for an analytics project.

3.      Disparate information systems. Uniting all relevant data from various legacy systems and differing technologies is a very common challenge. In order for your business insights to be meaningful, they need to be derived from one source of the truth. Crucially, data governance and data quality must underpin every data analytics project.

4.      Failure to identify the business problem. A point that is always highlighted at our conferences is that you must first identify the business need and then design the analytics project. Collecting data in the hope that something meaningful will emerge that will be of use for the business is an incredibly inefficient way of operating – you need to first know what problem you are trying to solve.

5.     Need for a ‘fast-fail’ analytics culture. Building a culture for a ‘fast-fail’, learn quickly and move forward environment will reap the greatest rewards.  Pilot the viability of your project before scaling up. Starting small and failing fast minimises the economical loss and assures the viability of the project before you start scaling up.

The pitfalls are many but the general consensus is that an iterative approach to data analytics projects is a must. Don’t be disheartened by failure – expect it.  Focus on the business problem and start asking the right questions in order to tailor your project. If Henry Ford had asked his customers about their day-to-day needs, perhaps he would have got a different answer.

You can hear more on this topic at our Chief Data & Analytics Officer Forum in Melbourne this September. Phil Wilkenden, ME Bank and Richard Mackey, Department of Immigration & Border Protection will be hosting a discussion group addressing how to understand the challenges of data and analytics projects.

Monica Mina is the Content Director for the CDAO Forum Melbourne. Monica is the organiser of the CDAO Forum Melbourne, consulting with the industry about their key challenges and trying to find exciting and innovative ways to bring people together to address those issues – the CDAO Forum APAC takes place in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Singapore and Hong Kong. For enquiries,
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The Issue of Data Ownership Explained: Could Chief Data Officers Have Got it All Wrong?

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Ahead of the coming Chief Data Officer Forum, Financial Services happening on June 22-23, 2016, we spoke to Marc Alvarez, Chief Data Officer at Mizuho Securities USA and one of the distinguished speakers of the event, to share his insights on the key issues gripping CDOs in the financial services industry. We spoke about the challenges faced in this highly regulated environment, the tangible risks involved when one fails to utilize data and the sticky issue of data ‘ownership’.

CDO Forum: In financial services, data is pervasive in everything a business does. How can CDOs establish their remit when every part of the business deals with data?

Marc Alvarez: It’s not really an optional exercise in today’s financial service industry. There is a very strong and to some extent increasing regulatory mandate pushing this requirement – regulators are seeking to better understand and have transparency into the data operations within a firm in order to better measure possible risk.  By definition this is a highly quantitative function, in line with other activities such as quarterly reporting of earnings and other performance reports.

Basic statistics tells you that accurate analysis is dependent on the quality and completeness of the data used in the analysis. So the need for improving data quality is a natural extension of the remit from regulators for improved analysis. By the way, this is an evolution that has been ongoing for decades – as technology becomes more sophisticated and economically affordable, more sophisticated statistical and quantitative methods can be brought to bear to better benefit the firm and its clients.

I think this is the key touch point for any organization, whether in the capital markets or not. Removing friction in the ability to access data content to feed empirical analysis is the natural outcome. Looking at the data footprint within a firm and identifying key pain points is the place to start – then moving to establish controls and improve quality of service and the user experience is likely going to generate the visibility to launch a broader program. Metrics around data quality, usage, and, yes, cost, provide the right basis for better managing content, leading to more and better analysis, leading to better satisfying regulatory requirements while at the same better informing both customers and investors as well as staff within the firm.

They key, though, is to recognize and communicate that this is a journey and not a destination. Industry experience has shown that the need for improved quantitative and statistical analysis is insatiable and needs to have an equal effort put into providing reliable and accurate input. It’s not and never will be a one off project.

CDO Forum: Because of data ownership issues, the CDO’s relationship with other senior executives can sometimes be difficult. What do you think is the key to partnering productively with other executives?

Marc Alvarez: I really don’t find the concept of “ownership” particularly meaningful or useful in the data management context. In today’s capital markets, a wide variety of data is used and re-used across the organization – it’s a fundamental resource like air or water in my opinion. We simply can’t run our business without it just like a blast furnace can’t run without oxygen or a sailboat without wind (or water for that matter).

That means we have a situation where we have multiple uses for the same resource. The real value to the firm is to deploy infrastructure that makes accessing and consuming the resource as efficient as possible. In today’s day and age that means establishing some form of level of service to meet these requirements at enterprise scale. In the past, this could be handled by the IT team on a project by project basis, but the demands are rapidly exceeding the capability and it’s likely not sustainable.

I really don’t find the concept of “ownership” particularly meaningful or useful in the data management context. In today’s capital markets, a wide variety of data is used and re-used across the organization – it’s a fundamental resource like air or water in my opinion. 
I think the key is to get dialogue going at a senior level within the firm and undertake an honest assessment of the firm’s capabilities to meet the growing demand. More IT spend is likely part of the answer, but it’s also becoming increasingly clear that firms need to build new competencies in the areas of data acquisition, management, administration, accounting and so on if they are going to not only compete, but thrive in an increasingly globalized and digitized economy.

Senior executives are well versed in working with data since they have to report results on a regular basis. So it’s not a foreign topic for them (at least it shouldn’t be). They get the potential upside to be won from thinking of new ways to deal with data supply at scale within the firm….once you cross that particular threshold, it really becomes a question of setting priorities and execution, both areas where financial firms in particular excel.

CDO Forum: Is it fair to say that the heavy regulatory burden that finance companies face means they have been slower to find the value in their data than those in other industries? How do you think can this be overcome?

Marc Alvarez: I would disagree that financial firms have been to slow to come to value their data. If anything, financial firms have been at the forefront of consuming and managing data content for decades. Data content – whether its prices, corporate actions, news, symbology, reference data, or whatever is a fundamental input to a financial firm’s business operations….plus the universe of content the firm generates itself. If anything, I think financial firms are at the front of the curve in deploying data content to everyday business operations. Just look at the amount of investment Silicon Valley is making in funding firms that sell to financial services!

And while regulatory reform is proving to be a major overhead to the business (we can debate just how effective it’s proving), I think it’s clear that financial firms are very well equipped to meet these challenges. The difference is that the impetus is coming from regulation and the scale of reporting and analysis is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

However, I’m fairly optimistic on this point – uniquely the financial industry has the history of working with data content and technology to have the skills to meet these demands. And if the new regulatory framework does what it claims it’s supposed to do, we’ll be living in a world of reduced risk and volatility for investors to deal with. That has to be good thing.

CDO Forum: What do you think are the risks for a financial services institution that fails to utilize its data in a meaningful way?

Marc Alvarez: Well, the obvious one is the risk of being fined and the associated impact on the firm’s reputation.

More importantly are the opportunity costs. Optimizing the manner in which the firm acquires, integrates and applies data content is fundamental to providing customers with an agile service line. The faster we can develop and leverage analytics, the better we can serve our customers across all our lines of business. Technology is core to today’s business and in particular it is driving more robust and sophisticated statistical analysis. I think we’ve arrived at what the journalists like to call an “inflection point” – the combination of technology and available data content are equipping firms and investors alike to perform far more detailed statistical analysis, developing entirely new investment strategies while at the same time modelling and managing the corresponding risk.

I think it’s becoming clear that this is the new normal - business is demanding new and more sophisticated analytics – it’s not an option. Failing to improve in data management will be a major constraint on a firm’s ability to compete and grow.

It will be interesting to see how the new entrants in the FinTech space address data management – if there are any new ways to skin this particular cat, that’s one place to look for them. If they break trail and come up with new, more efficient methods that avoid the challenges facing longer established firms (including the regulation hurdle), then we should see still more competition in an already hyper-competitive industry.

I think it’s becoming clear that this is the new normal - business is demanding new and more sophisticated analytics – it’s not an option.

CDO Forum: With the current scarcity of talent and high demand for data professionals, can CDOs still build an effective team?

Marc Alvarez: So this is where the “C” comes into “CDO” – building teams, recruiting staff, improving competences…these are all tasks that come with any leadership position. I don’t think there’s anything special when it comes to data management, however finding and growing leaders in any discipline is hard to do; that is true.

The common lament you hear is that data professionals can be somewhat hard to find these days. However, I think we may need to start by broadening our search parameters. The data vendor community has addressed many of these challenges over the years (full disclosure, I recently left a data vendor firm) and we are seeing an increase in education in the area. So I suspect we will have to address the current skills shortage via a variety of recruiting and training methods – in fact, I expect defining these programs and attracting the right talent will form a big part of the CDO role. 

The real challenge will be retaining the staff you get up to speed – people in data management roles tend to be highly numerate, analytical and excellent communicators…..there are plenty of roles in today’s economy that place a premium on those skills. So turnover is, unfortunately, to be expected.  On the plus side, if you’re just starting your career, data management is great place to consider – it opens lots of doors and the work really is quite interesting.
CDO Forum: What do you think is the key to turning a team to be ‘data evangelists’ and how do you engage employees across the business to manage and utilize data?  

Marc Alvarez: As with real estate, only 3 things – communicate, communicate, communicate!!

The challenge I find is that everybody in the industry presumes they know what we’re talking about when we use the phrases “data management” or “data governance” or “data” whatever. However, the reality is that if you ask 5 different people for their definitions you are almost certainly are going to get 20 different answers!! Putting my old Product Manager’s hat on, this indicates to me a need to set the scope of the discussion and agree on the terms of engagement. That means one aspect of the CDO role is to lead some internal marketing efforts to get the firm up to a common and agreed level of understanding.

There are a lot of ways to do this – other aspects of our business like IT Security expend a lot of effort in communicating complex concepts and requirements. So I think that’s the model to work with – creating an expectation that any one “evangelist” is going to be effective just doesn’t sound right to me. I think setting goals and producing visible results goes a lot further than anything else.  Do that, then the marketing comes easily.

CDO Forum: What do you think is the single most important quality that CDOs must possess to succeed in Financial Services companies?

Marc Alvarez: Be fearless! You need to be comfortable going across a lot of functions including IT, regulation, risk management, finance and so on. There is no one playbook to follow for any given firm and I think you have to be comfortable with a fair amount of uncertainty. So you have to have a strong will and communicate a very complex set of tasks, goals, and most important of all, benefits to the business. I think that adds up to having the courage to take on some pretty big issues and enlist the resources of the firm – so it’s not a job for you if you like things nice and quiet!

Hear more from the leading voices in Financial Services at the coming Chief Data Officer Forum, Financial Services on 22-23 June 2016 in New York City. Join over 100 CDOs, CAOs, and other data leaders from leading global and national financial institutions. For more information, visit
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JUST RELEASED: Chief Data Officer Forum Europe - Speaker Presentations

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On 9th-11th May 2016, over 120 of the leading CDOs and senior executives of data and analytics met at the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair to network and engage in an exchange of ideas which would bolster each of their respective strategies.

The general consensus is that the CDO position is indeed gaining global momentum, with Gartner predicting  that 50% of all companies in regulated industries will have a CDO by 2017.

Hear more from the leading Chief Data Officers at the coming Chief Data Officer Forum organized by Corinium Global Intelligence. Join the Chief Data Officer Forum on LinkedIn here.

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The Data Analytics Disconnect and How to Avoid It!

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Despite the professed benefits, there remains a real uncertainty around how to leverage the technology and ecosystem to achieve business value from big data analytics. Many stakeholders understand the urgency around analytics for the strategic success and competitive edge of their organisation, but fail to understand how to extract significant value from data.

We regularly hear how analytics investment is revealing customer needs and informing future product development and innovation. How operating costs are being significantly reduced, processing time and services optimised, with insights providing more effective decision making and planning. Clearly, organisations with targeted actions can maximise returns and identify potential business risks.

Indeed many organisations are excelling at leveraging data. They are raising the profile for data and analytics, and promoting the ability to interact and provide customer services in a new way using new technology platforms based upon data and information driving the way they operate. The next 5-10 years is going to see global transformation, with advancing technology, the impact of the IoT, and maturation of cloud and development of human talent that will inevitably grow to operate in this new environment. But if we listen carefully, we hear about the disconnect. A lack of confidence from those companies who are failing to make inroads, with questions around investment in structures, existing talent, and the available commercial solutions.

Building Confidence

Gartner predicts that by 2019 only half of those in the Chief Data and Analytics Officer role would be successful. Certainly the role of the CDAO is to add value but those who will fail in the CDAO function will have failed to manage stakeholder expectations. The strategy has to be a carefully managed approach that is effectively communicated and underwritten by well developed organisational support. The strategic purpose of the CDAO is turning data into knowledge to make better decisions but managing stakeholder expectations has to be their number one priority.

As you build the strategic ecosystem of the future, it has to deliver value not only for the future but for today. It has to show the value and demonstrate that it is being driven throughout the business areas to provide impact and confidence. Building the strategy and the assets has to enable a ‘fast-fail’, learn quickly and move forward environment. The business certainly expects the data analytics strategy to ‘succeed fast’.

Building the strategy and the assets has to enable a ‘fast-fail’, learn quickly and move forward environment. The business certainly expects the data analytics strategy to ‘succeed fast’.

Re-Writing the Legacy

The adoption of agile principles through the development of models, data, business value activities are also complimentary to any big data analytics programmes. For many organisations though, legacy is prevalent through their technology, data and culture. Smaller, newer companies have developed with data as a core activity. Larger organisations are operating in the reverse as legacy companies with legacy cultures now operate in a big data analytics world. The business is critically still running off the old systems and culture, however if you can tap the potential for change and exploit it, the business will respond and the analytics value will quickly gain stock.  These legacy aspects have to be impacted to ensure the success and sustainability of big data analytics.

Internal and Expanding Capability

The lead protagonists are the analytics team who should represent a blend of skills. Many question whether to train up or recruit externally but the fact is that the BAU will inevitably evolve and expand with the rise of self-service analytics, text search, AaaS and AI.  These advances will only bring value if the CDAO can embed a new mind-set so the organisation starts to value data as an asset and makes data driven decisions. The broader organisational culture is a key aspect.

So to Re-cap How to Avoid this Disconnect:

  • Gain meaningful support and understanding of stakeholder expectations
  • Transform from a legacy environment to a modern technology and data environment
  • Build internal talent capability
  • Implement data governance across the organisation
  • Build predictive and prescriptive analytics capability
  • Adopt a strategic partner as a specialist in the data and analytics space to help progress and move things forward
  • Impact the culture in a holistic and meaningful way

With the wealth of data in the next few years there is going to be a tidal wave of innovation. For many organisations, it will be the strategic plan they set out now and the level of big data analytics investment that determines how they will respond to this new business environment.  The success of data analytics in each organisation will be determined by how the leader in the CDAO role has managed that strategic plan.

For more on the disconnect and how to overcome it join us at the Chief Data and Analytics Officer Forum Singapore, 27-28 July where Dr Partha Dutta, Principle Advisor Business Intelligence & Analytics from Rio Tinto will be sharing his insight on how to get the most out of your data.

By Kate Tappin:

Kate Tappin  is the Content Director for the Chief Data and Analytics Officer Forum Singapore. Consulting with the industry about their key challenges and finding exciting and innovative ways to bring people together to address those issues - the CDAO Forum is launching in Singapore, 27-28 July 2016. For enquiries email:
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Will the Chief Data Officer still exist 10 years from now?

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“How did God create the world in 6 days? Because he didn’t have legacy systems.” - CDO Forum, Europe 2016 speaker

This one statement resonated with me because people are inherently resistant to change, and that inertia increases when we are dealing with corporate structures and hierarchies which date back over centuries.

However, the digital revolution has deeply disrupted organisational workings from both a tactical and strategic standpoint. The pace of innovation is becoming more rapid and buoyant than ever before, compelling businesses to adapt or fail. Chief Data Officers (CDOs) and Data Scientists (CDSs) have begun to appear in organisations hoping to innovate and capitalise on the data that is entrenched in every aspect of their business functions - and with good reason. A recent survey by Forrester Research concluded that the ‘top performers’ with 10% annual revenue growth were 65% more likely to appoint a CDO than ‘low performers’ that have less than 4% revenue growth.

Although the statistics appear to suggest a plethora of benefits, in some cases, the CDO has been met with an air of prudence and sometimes, rejected altogether. In spite of this, there have been some great successes; with CDOs holding responsibilities for compliance, best practice data governance and evangelising the value of data, shifting the organisation to data driven-decision making. But can a CDO’s mission ever be accomplished? If so, how do we define this success story and perhaps more importantly, what is the next step?

The early days of CDO

Early CDO appointments had strong roots within compliance and were created out of necessity for organisations to achieve effective Data Governance and management of their data assets. This is further cemented by the sheer prevalence of CDOs within heavily regulated industries, such as the Financial Services, and Gartner’s prediction that 50% of all companies in regulated industries will have a CDO by 2017. Ironically, these are also some of the oldest institutions inhibited by legacy infrastructures as well as cultural mind-sets.

You [the CDO] need to know your super-customers really well to address their needs, pain points and hopes. The best way to ensure this is through empowering your customers (co-workers, internal customers).

Contrast this with some of today’s leading tech giants, e-commerce and app-driven businesses which are able to experience a level of agility not afforded to their more traditional counterparts. These organisations have prospered in the digital age and have had data and analytics ingrained so deep within their cultural fabric that there is no need for a CDO.

Legislation has typically always lagged behind technology; this has been exacerbated by the exponential growth of technology observed in recent years. However, the EU Data Protection Directive is due for finalisation in 2017 which aims to take into account the “vast technology changes of the last 20 years”. What impact shall these legislative revisions have on organisations born in the digital age? Who will be responsible for this compliance and will this likely come in the form of a CDO?

How to keep seat at the executive table

CDOs must continue to evolve in order to maintain their seat at the executive table. Typically this evolution passes through specific benchmarks, such as data quality or compliance, improving processes, driving a data culture and then leveraging analytics and insights to draw real business value.  A CDO from a large hotel group stated their plan for the next 3 years includes the, “delivery of hot analytics, mainly data visualisation tools, as well as influence growth hacking and deliver bottom line models, thanks to advanced analytics and data science”. It could be argued that these are typically responsibilities held by a CDS or Chief Analytics Officer (CAO). Perhaps in the coming years we will see an increased amalgamation of sorts between these roles.

We must not forget the impact of an organisation’s internal stakeholders. Much of a CDO’s staying power is determined by their ability to meet the needs of their internal customers. I spoke with a CDO from the healthcare sector who stated, “you [the CDO] need to know your super-customers really well to address their needs, pain points and hopes. The best way to ensure this is through empowering your customers (co-workers, internal customers).” This was echoed by another CDO from a large publishing firm who defined his position by stating: "My role is about measuring how people use data and how we can support it centrally."

The only thing certain

Will the CDO role as it is defined now, still exist 10 years from now? Who knows what the future has in store for the CDO. Although one thing is certain: data shall continue to become a persistent and ever present aspect of modern day business. Developments in the Internet of Things will rapidly increase the amount of data available and those who begin implementing the architectures to prepare for this wave of information will succeed.

Power lies in the enabler who empowers an organisation to fully grapple the value of their data to create a competitive advantage, but perhaps more importantly, solve the strategic and operational problems faced by the business. This may not always lie in the hands of one individual or even one specific job title.

Will the CDO role as it is defined now, still exist 10 years from now? Who knows what the future has in store for the CDO. Although one thing is certain: data shall continue to become a persistent and ever present aspect of modern day business.

By Andrew Odong:

Andrew Odong is the Content Director US/Europe for the CDO Forum. Andrew produced the CDO Forum, Europe 2016, researching with the industry about the opportunities and key challenges for enterprise data leadership and innovating an interactive discussion-led platform to bring people together to address those issues – the CDO Forum has become a global series having been launched in five continents. For enquiries email:
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Taking the Pulse of Chief Data Officers in Africa

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In the lead up to the inaugural Chief Data Officer Forum Africa I have been surveying the speaker faculty to get insights into where their focus lies. As well as their thoughts on the CDO role as it stands in South Africa right now.

The results of this survey will give you some idea of what they will discuss at the event early next month.

To give you some context 13 speakers have completed the survey to date. Of those:

  • 3 are official (titled) CDOs
  • 2 perform the CDO role but their organisation doesn't use the title
  • 6 are from financial services
  • 2 are from telecoms & media
  • The remainder cover digital transport, retail, scientific research and consumer goods

The first key question asked was:

"Why did you decide to get involved as a speaker in the Chief Data Officer Forum Africa?"

The 3 most insightful responses to this question were:

1."This is a good opportunity to connect with like minded individuals and exchange insights. It is also an opportunity to shape the local industry that is still growing in data maturity" - Magan Naidoo, Group Data Manager, Dimension Data

2."To share my experiences and learnings with the wider community of data change agents as well as gain new learnings from others" - Yasaman Hadjibashi, Chief Data Officer, Barclays Africa

3."The CDO Forum is a great platform to engage with individuals from different spheres who have a vested interest in the effective management of data as an asset. Also, I will be exposed to various challenges experienced within other sectors and use this opportunity to measure our data maturity against other organisations" - Kaizer Manasoe, Data Governance Specialist, Standard Bank

The next question is probably the most important as it demonstrates the attitude towards the CDO role.

"How would you describe your company's view of the CDO role?"

  • 48% of those surveyed said "My company is aware of the role but is not actively working towards creating one."
  • 22% said "I am one so the companies sees value in the role."
  • 15% said "Effectively I am one but my company doesn't use the title."
  • 15% said "My company is aware of the role and is actively working towards creating one." 
I was keen to know why South African companies weren't actively working towards having a CDO especially since they are aware of the role.

"If you're company is not working toward having a CDO, why?"

  • 2 of the 6 (who gave this answer) said "Data & analytics is not mature enough yet."
  • 2 of the 6 said "Can't figure where to place the role in the organisation"
  • 1 said "Don't use or believe in using the C-title outside of traditional roles"
  • 1 said "No understanding of exactly what a CDO would do"
I'm willing to bet that of the 100+ people that have registered for the event, the majority would have very similar answers to the speakers. The objective of the event is help companies overcome the barriers to having a CDO through information sharing.

The next question delved into where the speakers were applying most of their focus.

"What is your biggest focus when it comes to data and/or analytics?"

Speakers could choose multiple answers to this question. Results were:
  • "Building a culture of data centricity across the whole organisation" came up 11 times
  • "Monetising data through analytics and insights" came up 7 times
  • "Improving the quality of data across the organisation" came up 6 times
  • "Embedding robust data management and governance frameworks" came up 6 times
Other than building a data centric culture, each focus area is dependent on technology investments.

"What are the biggest technology investments you expect to make in the next 12 to 18 months?"

Like the previous question, respondents could select multiple answers.
  • "Predictive analytics, advanced analytics and big data" came up 12 times
  • "Data governance, data quality and data management" came up 10 times
  • "ETL & data warehousing" came up 4 times
  • "Data visualisation" came up 3 times
  • "Data security, data breach" and "Consulting services" came up once each
Clearly, these companies are getting their data in order to drive business performance through analytics and insights.

The good news is Corinium is launching the Chief Analytics Officer Forum Africa in September 2016.

The second to last question was used to get insight into what needs to happen to drive the growth of CDOs.

"What do you think will drive the proliferation of CDOs in South Africa?"

The 3 most insightful responses were:

1. "Increased awareness and appreciation of having accountability at the C- level by an appropriately experienced person. Pressure to manage data related costs and leverage data as an asset" - Magan Naidoo, Group Data Manager, Dimension Data
2. "Pressure and results from big corporates that have shown the value in what a CDO can bring to the table. Companies will soon learn that the traditional CIO role does not give you a competitve advantage in the market" - Morne van der Westhuizen, Head of Data Analytics, Zoona

3. "The increasing data management and governance challenges presented by the advent of Big data and Analytics; The ongoing challenge that most CIOs face for not having the capacity to focus on data" - Junior Muka, Data Architect - Business Intelligence, Woolworths
Finally, I wanted to know what each speaker hopes to get out of their conference experience.

"What do you hope to get out of the event? What take-aways are you looking for?"

I have chosen these 3 responses although all were insightful:

1. "Exciting new connections from across Africa and learning from new as well as aspiring data leaders, who want to make a material difference for their companies, customers, and the African continent" -  Yasaman Hadjibashi, Chief Data Officer, Barclays Africa

2. "Because data and information as a valuable asset is a growing realisation in Africa, the opportunity to network with others dealing with the same challenges and difficulties will give us comfort that we are headed in the right direction" - PJ Bezuidenhout, Chief Data Officer, Wesbank

3. "Improved definition and shared understanding of the role and responsibilities of a CDO; Practical ways for growing toward such a role and influencing your organization to actively work toward creating such a role" - Junior Muka, Data Architect - Business Intelligence, Woolworths

Once all speakers and delegates have been surveyed, we will publish a detailed report on the South Africa CDO environment. Clearly, there is a lot of activity in this space and some deep thinking. All that is needed now is a concerted effort to push the value of data, analytics and leadership roles up the corporate ladder.

Think about how much insight there is to be gained by spending up to 4 days with over 100 data and analytics leaders if 13 surveyed speakers generated this post.

By Craig Steward: 

Craig Steward is the Content Director for Corinium’s CDO and CAO Forums in Africa. His research is uncovering the challenges and opportunities that exist for CDOs and CAOs and the Forums will bring the market together to map the way forward for these important roles. For more information contact Craig on
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My Top Tip for Justifying your Open Data Program

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As the body of data that governmental and public bodies hold continues to increase exponentially, a strong drive is under way to put more of this information in public hands. However, there is great debate over exactly where value can be found from opening up your data to the public. To take a deeper drive into this issue, I caught up with some speakers from the upcoming CDO Forum, Government (6-7 June, Washington D.C.)

It is no secret that identifying the value of open data programs, and so justifying their existence, can be difficult. Niki Virani, the lead behind the City of Houston’s open data program says that “even though cities have been “doing” Open Data for a while it’s hard to quantify a dollar value ROI associated with the effort”.

Often, advocates argue that it promotes transparency, and so creates improvements in government, whereby the data ‘shines a light’ and illuminates public knowledge and engagement with organisations, leading to benefits including accountability and public participation.

Brandon Crowley, Chief Data Officer, City of Cincinnati feels that “if transparency is of interest to the entity, a [open data] policy will likely be developed and implemented in support of the transparency agenda which includes but not limited to an Open Data portal”.

For Brandon Pustejovsky, Chief Data Officer at USAID also, demonstrating immediate value can be challenging, but transparency a good way forward. “Open data is still new for most of the U.S. Government.  And the minute you start opening data is the same minute you begin identifying issues with quality, timeliness, interoperability, etc.  And that's precisely the argument from open data advocates:  becoming transparent with (and consuming) your own data generally compels organizations to address underlying data issues in a way that benefits everyone.”

There is debate though as to how far transparency alone can provide sufficient value to underpin an open data initiative. Virani feels that “many people tout the transparency angle, and while that’s great, is it building trust in your community? Which we would argue is the goal of transparency. That’s a hard question to answer”.

Perhaps, whilst the transparency that open data brings has mainly benefits, the key to justifying the value of open data lies elsewhere. Virani highlights an alternative line of argument - “another go to for ROI is economic development”. This is where open data sets help to drive technological innovation and economic growth, with third parties utilizing the information as assets to develop new kinds of digital applications and services.

For open data to achieve this goal, it must be not only ‘open’ (i.e. available for use) but also it must be useful. As Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief Information Officer at the City of Boston said, “putting data up on the web is one thing, but making it useful to people is a whole different challenge.”

Putting data up on the web is one thing, but making it useful to people is a whole different challenge.

I completely agree - it isn’t enough for open data to simply be open. For it to be valuable (to the user, your organisation, and society at large), your open data program should produce useful data, in a useful manner. Franklin-Hodge notes a potential way forward here, as the City of Boston is “working with the Boston Public Library to catalog our open data, and to develop public programs in the libraries to educate people about it.”

Pustejovsky agrees, he sees the potential for value as “somewhat akin to giving a child a chemistry or electronics set.  It may not look attractive on the surface, but it has the potential to yield new and profound insights. The same is true for data. The real question is whether they will take the effort to generate that insight or opt for the digital device that has already generated the insight for them.”

Virani however sounds a note of caution “as Waldo Jaquith says, government isn’t interested in someone else getting rich off of their data. The real benefit of open data is breaking down siloes that exist between departments and educate employees and citizen about how their city works.”

This divergence of opinion, I think, cuts to the heart of the matter, and brings me to my top tip to justify your open data program - the value of open data may vary between different organisations, depending on their priorities. Ultimately, the most important lesson is that, in order to be successful, an open data program must tie in with the goals and aspirations of the body to which it will belong. Therefore, your justification must closely align with, and become an enabler of the priorities of your organization, rather than attempting to become a priority in itself.

By James Bowater:

James Bowater is Content Director US/Europe for the CDO Forum. James is currently producing our first sector specific events, organizing both CDO Forum, Financial Services, and CDO Forum, Government. By consulting senior data leaders in both fields, he will facilitate industry discussion and debate to address the biggest challenges and opportunities currently faced by the field. Both events launch in June 2016, on US East Coast. For enquiries email:
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CDO Africa Roundtable: Insights Into the Development of the CDO Role in South Africa

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In October 2015 Corinium decided to research the South African Chief Data Officer environment to see if running the CDO Forum in the country was feasible. Preresearch thoughts were that it wasn’t going to be viable but the research uncovered a rapidly growing awareness of the role. And, like most markets Corinium operates in, South African companies were facing the same implementation/integration challenges.

In South Africa there are currently 4 official Chief Data Officers. All work in the financial services sector. And prior to 11 February 2016 none of them knew each other existed. That was a big problem we wanted to address through our Forums connect people with the same jobs and challenges with each other so they could share their stories and solutions.

Corinium hosted the CDO Africa Roundtable on 11 February to introduce the key players to each other and give them a platform to discuss their roles. In addition to the CDOs we had senior data leaders and a Chief Analytics Officer join the discussion.

Those who attended were:

  • Yasaman Hadjibashi, Chief Data Officer, Barclays Africa
  • PierreJohan (PJ) Bezuidenhout, Chief Data Officer, Wesbank
  • Dr. Richard van der Wath, Chief Data Officer, MyBucks
  • Pieter Vorster, Chief Analytics Officer, Absa Capital
  • Elize van der Linde, Head of Information Governance, Firstrand
  • Magan Naidoo, Group Data Manager, Dimension Data
Each participant in the roundtable was asked to answer 5 questions to give insight into their thoughts on the Chief Data Officer role in South Africa.

Download the CDO Africa Roundtable Report see what these data leaders had to say.

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