Agency Management

The Chief Data Officer: Arguments pro and con

tech manager

Do agencies need a leader dedicated to data management? (Stock image)

Big data experts on Dec. 12 gave another nudge to agencies contemplating chief data offer positions.  Bill Cull, vice president of the public sector at big-data firm Splunk, even offered a timeline:  “I think we might see CDOs appointed in the next year,” he said.

The position is not new to the federal government – in 2010, the Federal Communications Commission became the first agency to appoint a CDO, and it now has 10 CDOs across its offices and bureaus – but the notion has garnered more attention recently as agencies look to leverage huge amounts of data.

Teresa Carlson, vice president of Amazon Web Services’ Worldwide Public Sector, asked whether agencies might soon have CDOs directing teams of data scientists, said it would be worth trying. However, she added, “You have to make sure you have the right individuals in place.” Carlson made the comment while speaking at an executive briefing sponsored by FCW and TechAmerica on Dec. 12.

In October, TechAmerica released a report calling for a CDO in each agency and governmentwide. However, skeptics have questioned whether another C-level position within federal agencies is necessary.

“[A] good CIO or CTO should already be doing what a CDO would be hired to do,” Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, told FCW in October. “Data and technology are intimately linked, and strategies should be developed around both of them together

Castro suggested more CIOs should pay attention to data. “This reminds me of the ‘chief revenue officer’ or other similar titles that were popular especially in the dot-com era,” he said in October, "which generally reflected the need for someone to come in and develop a core competency that every business or organization needs, but some had unfortunately ignored."

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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