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How colleges are dropping the ball on data science

Alec_Wagner on ‎01-13-2014 09:32 PM

In the whitepaper, “The Precarious State of the CDO,” Data Blueprint founding director Peter Aiken offers insight into the burgeoning role of the chief data officer in today’s enterprise. Although there is “a general belief that the position is needed,” the paper surmises, “there is also a healthy skepticism that having another C-level position will really resolve the data issues existing within most organizations.” Aiken notes that, like the Chief Information Security Officer role 15 years ago, the CDO role is still evolving.


An associate professor of Information Systems at Virginia Commonwealth University, Aiken has studied data management for more than three decades, and is co-author of the book, The Case for the Chief Data Officer. He recently spoke with Discover Performance about what the CDO should do, where the CDO fits into the org chart, and how organizations should view and manage their data as an asset. Here’s an outtake from that conversation.


Q: Your book notes that “Data is an organization’s sole non-depreciating, non-depleting, durable, strategic asset.” Should enterprises have had someone managing data in the C-suite all these years?

PA: They’ve not been told to pay attention to it. But you need someone up at the top who understands data as a resource. The fault falls on the university community. I’m sort of on a crusade at the moment, because I’ve come to the conclusion that the educational groups are letting down the folks who need to have the knowledge, skills and abilities to manage data. Most of them have been taught that data is a technical skill devoted to building physical databases. There’s no programmatic aspect to it, there’s no management of it as a durable asset.


A good friend of mine is the CIO of a big $10 billion company in Virginia. He sat down and read a draft of the book and he said, “My god, I’ve been doing the wrong stuff for the last 10 years. Nobody told me otherwise. I did what I was supposed to do, but I realize now that if I had been focusing on the data, the story would have been completely different.”


Q: So it all comes down to education?

PA: It certainly does, and it’s going to take us a decade or so to catch up on it. We’re seeing a whole lot of movement overseas before we’re seeing it in the U.S. So it’s one of those competitive issues we have to worry about. Data maturity practices are improved in Europe compared to the US. Part of the reason is that some European companies have been around, literally, for a millennium—whereas we’re still quarter-driven [in the United States].


Peter Aiken is co-author of The Case for the Chief Data Officer, published by Morgan Kaufman. Read his full interview on the Discover Performance site.

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About the Author


Alec Wagner is a longtime writer & editor, enterprise IT insider, and (generally) fearless digital nomad.

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