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Federal CDOs Will be the Heroes of Big Data and Analytics, Report Says

Eighty-eight percent of federal agencies with a Chief Data Officer (CDO) said they are making a positive impact. But 93 percent of those without a CDO say having one would positively impact the agency, according to the new MeriTalk report, Calling the Plays: The Evolving Role of the CDO and Federal Big Data.

The report was based on an online survey of 150 federal IT managers in September and October 2016.

The study, underwritten by ViON Corporation, “revealed CDOs are changing the federal big data game – 69 percent of federal agencies with a CDO are more likely to successfully manage big data than those without (40 percent). In fact, 88 percent of agencies with CDOs report they’re having a positive impact – while 93 percent of those who don’t have a CDO say having one would make a positive impact,” the report said.

Almost all federal agencies (92 percent) said their agency uses big data in some form, yet the majority (58 percent) would grade their agency’s data management strategy a C or below.

The report revealed federal agencies’ “top challenges include the abilityto convert data into actionable intelligence, govern data and centralize data storage.”

“In fact, the majority of federal agencies without a CDO (67 percent) said their agency is in desperate need of leadership around big data and analytics efforts. In addition to successfully managing big data, agencies with CDOs are also more likely to successfully leverage big data for decision making (61 percent versus 28 percent of those without a CDO),” the report found.

Of agencies with a CDO, the report found 76 percent said “the CDO has taken ownership over data management and governance issues, with the following primary responsibilities:”

  • Centralizing organizational data (55 percent)
  • Protecting organizational data (51 percent)
  • Improving data quality (49 percent)
  • Managing open government data efforts (43 percent)
  • Bridging the gap between IT and operations (43 percent)
  • Leveraging data to help set and achieve realistic goals (41 percent)

“It’s clear agencies are inundated with data on a daily basis – what they do with that data is critical though,” said Rodney Hite, director, big data and analytics solutions at ViON. “Implementing a Chief Data Officer ensures your agency is focusing the right amount on mission-critical data management goals – while storing and protecting data throughout the process. Regardless of whether an agency has one or not, the majority – 57 percent – believe the CDO will be the hero of big data and analytics.”

Agencies with a CDO – versus those without one – seem to have the advantage when leveraging big data in other operations, including:

  • Cybersecurity analytics (65 percent versus 48 percent)
  • Strategic decision making (57 percent versus 41 percent)
  • Mission intelligence (49 percent versus 35 percent)

“Ninety-two percent of agencies with CDOs reported the CDO and Chief Information Officer (CIO) have a productive working relationship to ensure their agency is keeping pace with the technological realities of big data and analytics,” the report disclosed. “In fact, 71 percent even say their CDO has taken a few of the CIO’s responsibilities to help even out the workload.”

“However,” the report noted, “most agencies aren’t rounding out the support team for CDOs. Of agencies with CDOs, only 25 percent also have a Deputy Chief Data Officer; 29 percent have a Chief Analytics Officer; and only 25 percent have a Chief Data Scientist. And, completing the data staff isn’t in immediate plans – in the next two years, only 24 percent plan on hiring a Deputy CDO; 23 percent a Chief Analytics Officer; and only 15 percent plan to hire a Chief Data Scientist.”

“Agencies need these data trailblazers as the volume of structured and unstructured data continues to explode,” said Steve O’Keeffe, MeriTalk founder. “Once you cut through the noise, properly managing data can be the key to agency success in other arenas, from cyber security to customer experience. Agencies are in dire need of a new data playbook.”

When incorporating the CDO into agency big data strategy, federal IT managers suggested the following:

  • Allow the CIO to be in on tasking, job descriptions, interviewing and hiring
  • Define roles, expectations and reporting structure
  • Integrate the CDO into current IT data policies and procedures to simplify the transition
  • Listen to the needs of the agency and build your plan around the agency’s mission
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