Data

Why chief data officers don't do much tech

adrift in a sea of data

As they make their way into the C-suite, some chief data officers are working with people more than technology.

"This is a people job first and foremost," said Daniel Morgan, CDO at the Transportation Department, during a June 30 summit organized by the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center. "As a chief data officer, you just can't live behind your desk."

He said he spends much of his time connecting teams to the right datasets, which often come from outside his agency. When he does get to talk tech, it's as an adviser to DOT CIO Richard McKinney.

Bob Landreth, program manager for the Defense Information Systems Agency's Big Data Platform, said he also counsels customers. When users request datasets, Landreth said he asks them to take a step back and tell him what they want to accomplish so he can determine what data they need.

At the General Services Administration, CDO Kris Rowley advises and reports to the agency's CIO. He said he spends 80 percent of his time working on business issues and only 20 percent on technology, and he's fine with that.

"All of the technology needs I have I hand off to [GSA CIO David Shive]," Rowley said, adding that the arrangement allows him to focus on governance and change management.

When the balance is right, CDOs can be freed up to advise customers or even hit the outreach circuit, as Morgan and Commerce Department Deputy CDO Tyrone Grandison have done, to bring pertinent data to those who don't yet know they can use it.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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