Who looks after the data assets in your company?

What corporate assets do you have?

In the context of this article I am not referring to those on the balance sheet such as equipment, stock, debtors and perhaps buildings but more about those which are commonly referred to as critical assets in enabling you to achieve your targets and goals. In addition to your people, customers, brand value there is one further resource that many organisations are increasingly focussed on – your data assets.

So who is the most senior member of your staff charged with looking after each of these?

In most organisations people are looked after by a board member responsible for Human Resources, Personnel or Human Capital.

Also in most organisations there are one or possibly two members of the board responsible for Sales (customer acquisition, retention and revenue generation) and Marketing (generating leads, brand awareness and management etc.)

But who is in charge of your data? Do you need someone in charge of data assets? Surely that is the function of IT, the Chief Information or Technology Officer?

Well maybe, however data is not just about processing, storing and analytics. It is much more important than that. If your data assets are seen purely as a function of IT then it is likely that you are not going to get as much return from it as you would like. Data is complex and varied. It can be structured, unstructured, held in the cloud (usually “other people’s computers”), stored in house, on laptops and mobile devices or even in manual paper files.

Data is all pervasive in your organisation. It is collected, stored, moved around between different systems, used for decision making and reporting. Most, but not all of this touches IT which control the technical infrastructure.

On a personal level data should be the responsibility of everyone who engages with it. However, how do you manage data quality? For example, do your call centre agents record interactions with customers accurately? Do your staff know and implement your data compliance rules? For that matter do all staff know their duties and responsibilities with regard to data accuracy, quality and security? What policies, procedures and training programs are set up to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations such as the GDPR, CCPA, UK Data Protection Act etc? Not having these in place can result in significant fines, loss of customers and brand value. The GDPR penalties for example can be as high as 4% of your global revenue or €20 million whichever is the higher.

How are decisions made about using your data to further the strategic goals of your organisation? Who makes them? What are the main sources of data for decision making? How many data lakes, marts and warehouses do you have? How many data catalog or metadata management products are in place or being implemented? How many different BI or Analytics products do have which are being used to assist in decision making? Even with all that infrastructure how many decisions are still being based on individually created spreadsheets with data that may be inaccurate, out of date and at odds with what other business users might be using?

Would it make sense that answering these questions should lie with someone whose sole responsibility is for your organisation’s data and how it is used?

Personally my view is that data is too important to be a subset of the IT function which is often under the overall responsibility of whoever has responsibility for Finance. This can give the impression that IT and data are seen as cost items rather than enablers of business strategy.

Perhaps it is time to give both IT and data their place at the ‘big table’?

The CIO (or whatever title represents the IT leader) because that role is responsible for running the technology infrastructure that is vital to the well being of virtually every organisation of any size.

The Chief Data Officer (or equivalent) because data is not purely about technology and as it is commonly referred to as a strategic asset it should be managed appropriately. After all, the other strategic assets (people, customers, brand etc) have their voice on the board.

(Note: this article was also published on LinkedIn)

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