Defending The Chief Data Officer

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An industry presentation at MIT on the importance of the chief data officer this week went awry when one attendee point-blank asked, “Why would anyone want to be a CDO?”

Noetic Partners' Justin Magruder and Diane Schmidt presented on the emerging role of the CDO at the MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium, and were put on the defensive when an attendee called the role “very boring.”

Magruder said he understood. “You have IT over here saying ‘Why is this job needed?’ And business over here saying, ‘Why is this guy not more effective?'”

Other attendees jumped in, calling the CDO a “thankless job.”

“Being in data architecture is like running into a brick wall every day of your life,” one attendee said.

Schmidt said she has seen the role, which touches everything from data analysis to quality management, work “extremely well.” “You have to make it an empowered role,” she said.

One of two actual CDOs in the audience stepped up to defend his position. Eugene Kolker has been a CDO at Seattle Children’s Hospital for the past 11 years.

“The point is you translate and transform data in actual insights,” Kolker said. "You find patterns which nobody knew existed. You demystify whatever people believed for years, decades. You bring real value out of data, you improve patients and families.”


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