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Dyche: Don't fill chief data officer role until you're ready for it

At the 2014 Pacific Northwest BI Summit in Grants Pass, Ore., Jill Dyché of software vendor SAS Institute Inc. co-led a roundtable discussion on the responsibilities -- and merits -- of the chief data officer role. Dyché, a business intelligence and data management consultant who now is vice president of best practices at SAS, said CEOs and other top corporate executives have become more aware of the strategic importance of data, thanks partly to the increasing emphasis on improving decision making through business intelligence, analytics and big data applications. As a result, more companies are adding a CDO to their executive ranks.

But many of them are going down the wrong path, according to Dyché and fellow session leader Peter Evans, a BI and analytics product evangelist at Dell Inc.'s software unit. The CDO position should focus on strategic issues related to the use of data, Dyché said -- but organizations often saddle CDOs with tactical IT responsibilities, such as building up their technology infrastructure and data management processes. "What their company has them doing and what they should be doing, there's a huge gap between those things," she said.

There's also no standard template or job description for a CDO, and Dyché cautioned that while corporate execs might think they need a chief data officer, they aren't always so sure about what exactly they want one to do. "So, these people can risk becoming figureheads in their companies very quickly," she said. Evans agreed, saying that companies looking to hire a CDO "have to have a goal. If you don't, you shouldn't just drive a CDO into an organization."

Dyché further discussed the issue in a video interview recorded at the conference, saying companies that don't set up the job properly could "hire somebody who's very qualified to be a chief data officer and then lose them because the work is too mechanical." Watch the two-minute video to hear more of her thoughts on when the time is right to create a chief data officer role in an organization.

Text by Craig Stedman, executive editor. Email us at and follow us on Twitter: @sDataManagement.

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