The Need For a Chief Analytics Officer


CAO (IS)

I recently came across an article on CIO.com in which the increasing need for CAOs was suggested. What I found interesting, is that article emphasises the demand for CAOs and their strategic impact on the whole organization.

The role of CAOs

Most organizations desire to turn big data into a valuable strategic asset.  Nowadays, the CAO is finding a home in data-rich industries like healthcare. Although still not as prevalent as two other newish C(hief)-suite roles — the chief digital officer and chief data officer — the CAO may represent an inflection point in the organization’s digitalisation, signalling a tendency from managing data to applying it more strategically across the business.

Often, businesses have deployed analysts and data scientists across several layers in the organization, but they aren’t yet harnessing the collective wisdom or economies of scale. These companies are the prime candidates for a CAO. In order to organize analytics better and be able to justify someone for strategic decisions around data, companies must hire a Chief Analytics Officer.

There seems to be plenty of upside in adopting a more strategic approach to big data and the impact it can have. In a recent study by management consultancy EY, for example, 69% of companies said customer experience was vital to their growth strategies, but just 12% said they take full advantage of analytics to extract customer insights and deliver better customer service.

So, a brief conclusion so far is that in the field of leadership, a point is reached that, from a competitive standpoint, it’s time to dedicate investment and create a standalone, centralized analytics function.

Adding a strategic layer

CAO’s can add two key elements: improving operations and identifying future growth opportunities. It’s an analytics function, not a data function. Ultimately, CAOs need to lead the decision-making, not just the data management component. The CAO’s role as a cross-functional strategist, combined with organizations’ increasing reliance on data to drive business decision-making, supports the suggestion that the title is no flash in the pan.

Companies will rely more and more on data to make decisions and to improve how they interact internally and externally with partners and clients. One important skill for CAOs is their ability to act as a conduit between IT and the rest of the business. For example, bridging the gap between the technology teams and business teams is one of those skills. CAOs turn data into a common language that both business and IT can understand.

So lastly, where does the CAO fit in the organizational box? The article says there is no standard box on the organizational chart for the CAO. According to several interviewed CAOs, they sit in unique spaces within their corporate hierarchy.

Do you agree with the increasing need for CAOs?

Sources:

O’Regan, R. (2014) ‘Chief analytics officer: The ultimate big data job?’:  http://www.computerworld.com/article/2688352/chief-analytics-officer-the-ultimate-big-data-job.html#difference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_analytics_officer, retrieved on 5th of October, last updated on the 1st of June 2014

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