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BLOG: Too many chiefs? Do public organizations need Chief Data Officers?

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D. | May 17, 2013
Having had several related discussions this past week while in Washington DC, it is obvious that the question of how to use and manage the growing wealth of data, and incorporate it into an existing information governance organization and infrastructure (however mature or not), is top of mind in the public sector as well.

Having had several related discussions this past week while in Washington DC, it is obvious that the question of how to use and manage the growing wealth of data, and incorporate it into an existing information governance organization and infrastructure (however mature or not), is top of mind in the public sector as well.  These questions are particularly timely for the federal government with the publication of the new Executive Order on Open Data and accompanying Memorandum on Open Data Policy – Managing Information as an Asset.  Do government agencies need a CDO in order to do this?

If they did, what functions does the new role take on?  Does the new role take on new uses of data for business strategy?  Who has responsibility for existing functions of information management and data governance?  Then from the organizational perspective, where does this new role sit?  Who reports to the CDO?  Gene discusses these questions in his blog.  With the increasing importance of data and the information they generate, organizations need to get their heads around the new assets they have – both for internal use and both partners external to the organization.  But the proliferation of “chiefs” doesn’t seem to be the answer.  Information is an asset to the company, yes. And it needs to be managed.  But not all assets have their own chief, nor should they.

Yet, chiefs there are – particularly across cities.  Chief Data Officers are cropping up in many cities.  Chicago has had one for a while to shepherd the city’s open data program. San Francisco justannounced a new Chief Data Officer position.  They already have a Chief Innovation Officer and a Chief Information Officer – dual CIOs must be somewhat confusing.  And, I recently had an interesting discussion with Mark McDonald, the CIO of City of Vancouver, who is currently ruminating on a similar issue. What is the best organizational structure to manage the development and execution of evolving digital strategies and new open data mandates?  In Vancouver, the new multi-year Digital Strategy, approved on April 9th, includes new goals for access and engagement; (2) infrastructure and assets; (3) the economy; and (4) digital maturity across the organization.

 

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