Finally! A Call for Chief Analytics Officer


Chief Analytics OfficerI read a good, solid article – “It’s Time To Welcome The Chief Analytics Officer” (Fast Company, July 28, 2014) – that calls for and astutely describes the role of the Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) in a corporation.

As I read Frank Bien’s article, I found myself nodding my head and saying, “yes, that’s exactly right!” I thought I’d share my reactions and thinking with you here.

He writes that the “CAO is about creating real business value through data analytics and promoting the company’s data-driven culture.”

In Bien’s view — and mine — the CAO has “a solid grounding in overall business goals…and the CAO’s contribution should be measured with a clear return on investment, along with actionable insights, and operational improvements.”

He describes the new CAO as someone who:

  1. “Curates Big Data
  2. Delivers Data into the Hands of the Individual
  3. Empowers Data Experts
  4. Cultivates a Discovery-Driven Organization”

A Difference of Opinion

There is, however, one important point on which I disagree with Bien’s analysis.  He predicts that the Chief Data Officer role will “evolve into a broader role: the chief analytics officer, or CAO.”

This is where he misses the mark.

The CDO’s skills are in figuring out data storage, data management, data stewardship, data security, and data privacy – collection, efficiency, tools. The front line importance of the CDO position lies in the critical areas of protection and organization of data assets, new capability assessments, operational delivery, cost reduction and franchise risk management.

I believe – and Bien agrees – that a Chief Analytics Officer has a completely different skill set. She has a solid grounding in overall business goals. She possesses a sound foundation in economics and awareness of broad market conditions. She has a statistical computer science proficiency to form a base for data-driven decision-making. Finally, she promotes user curiosity and brings expertise in creating a “discovery-driven” culture.

This CAO is a very differently skilled person from current CDOs – not one who will simply “evolve” from the CDO role.

Demand Outstrips Supply

The problem, of course, is the availability of these rare kinds of businesspersons.

Where will they all come from?

Bien’s cites a research prediction that “50% of Fortune 500 companies will have a CDO in place by 2015.” If that’s even close, where will corporate America find all the badly needed CAOs?

As Bien points out in the beginning of his article, “…data is only strategic if it’s analyzed, understood, and actionable throughout the enterprise, so the value in all that data can be realized.” This is where the CDO and CAO positions are critical complements: managing and protecting the data so that analysis and insight are confidently built on safe, clean, recent, relevant and valid data.

What “realized” means is that new CAO will then be the one to generate new business opportunities, new products, and new services – all those things that fuel tangible and profitable business growth.

Let’s hope our corporate world starts to realize the importance of creating the CAO role in their organizations and developing a data-and discovery-driven culture to nourish data analytics’ great promise.