Combining the ability to protect data privacy whilst enabling innovation is recognised to be a priority initiative, but continues to be challenging – and what is the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) in all of this?

Jason du Preez – CEO at Privitar shares some of his views on this important subject.

The first Chief Data Officer Exchange, held recently in London, was very well attended and from the many conversations we had, it came as no surprise that overall, the appetite for innovation with data is immense. Virtually all the CDOs we met with cited the urgent need to apply new thinking and new technologies to enable broader use of data and were particularly focused on how the obstacles associated with access to sensitive or personal data could be overcome.

A common theme that also emerged, echoed by many we spoke with, was that while the CDO position is perceived to be a critical function, the reality is that all too often it is more of custodial role, tasked only with overseeing the delivery of trusted, quality data, rather than helping business leaders use invaluable data sources to create efficiencies or add value.

At the same time we were encouraged to learn that finally banks are increasingly recognising the potential value locked in these information flows and are, albeit more slowly than one would like, being galvanised into taking action. This change in attitude potentially represents a real opportunity for all CDOs to be able to take on more of the responsibility for finding and executing new ideas that will enable the faster implementation of advanced data analytics and other data science applications.

In our opinion, CDOs should have the express mandate to innovate and build upon the data foundations they have laid. They already have deep understanding of managing enterprise scale data challenges, intimate knowledge of data platforms and an insatiable appetite to do more with data. Why are they not empowered to do more?

All in all, it’s no wonder that data privacy and security, are highly emotive subjects and as a result of stringent and growing regulatory scrutiny and directives, they are perceived by many to be very challenging indeed. However, our experience shows these challenges are by no means insurmountable.

With modest refinements to operating models and the application of a combination of strong data policy with technological reinforcement, much needed risk mitigation and business transformation capabilities can be achieved.