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Chief data and analytics officer roles: What you need to know

Whether you have a chief analytics officer or chief data officer, there is a need for a unified leadership structure for data and analytics in the enterprise.

Oscar Marroquin has a lot on his plate. As chief healthcare data and analytics officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, he's tasked with providing oversight and direction for the whole of the data and analytics area of his organization.

It's a big role, but one that's central to a modern enterprise like UPMC. Without a holistic approach to this sector of the enterprise, it can be difficult to get the most out of your data.

"And that's where the chief data and analytics officer becomes critical," Marroquin said. "So that there can be a team that is dedicated to actually paying attention to all of the extra responsibilities."

When it comes to data and analytics, enterprises have realized the need for centralized oversight. Having a model where CIOs balance IT responsibilities with the modern demands of data is just not realistic anymore.

That's why some enterprises have turned to chief analytics officers and chief data officers to relieve the burden on CIOs. As the amount of data increases, it is crucial that organizations make the right call and hire the right position for them.

Looking across organizations, data and analytics can bring significant business value, but they may require investment in a unified data leadership structure.

Chief data officer or chief analytics officer responsibilities

One major aspect of Marroquin's role is to act as mediator and facilitator when it comes to working with clinical partners. Having a unified position has helped UPMC ensure that the right questions are being asked and that the needs of the organization are being supported when it comes to data and analytics.

But that's not all. He also has some responsibilities that are traditionally thought of as being in the realm of data management.

"Another big part of my role is making sure that we have the right governance and prioritization processes," Marroquin said.

Chief data officer vs. chief information officer

Gartner analyst Andrew White said the CIO has been given too many responsibilities. Handling everything from technology development to vendor relations and data management and analytics, CIOs are unable to dedicate the amount of time required to handle each task.

"They ended up being so busy with technology and vendors that they didn't have time to do the data and analytics strategy," White said.

Typically, making the CIO responsible for an organization's data and analytics strategy presented one of two problems. Either CIOs would be overwhelmed with the amount of data, or the organization had a good handle on data governance and privacy but realized they were not getting as much value out of their data as they wanted.

Ultimately, both problems led to the same outcome. Organizations were unable to gather insight into customer trends or to improve internal processes because their management setup didn't permit the right amount of time to be spent on data and analytics. Leaving the maintenance and handling of data to the CIO was unfeasible.

When it comes to handling data and deploying analytics, organizations have realized the need to dedicate a specific leadership position to this field. Enterprises are filling the void with chief data officer, chief analytics officer and a variety of other titles.

White said most organizations turn to a chief data officer, but of those who have installed a chief analytics officer, there are two camps.

"There's a CAO, who really is the head of analytics. In other words, they are used to report writing and, dashboarding, and now they're moving up the food chain," White said. "The decision-making authority is increasing, but they're still head of analytics."

The other case is that the chief analytics officer is performing the responsibilities of a chief data officer, and the organization has chosen a misleading position name.

"They've just gone after analytics, and technically they should be selling the data and analytics message because if you've got one or the other, and not both, then you're going to fail," White said.

Chief data officer or chief analytics officer?

Peter Aiken, associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the importance of this role is not its name but rather its responsibilities.

The way of the business world is data and analytics, and having a centralized leadership structure that can dedicate time to handle data defensively and offensively is vital.

For Aiken, the importance of having a separate role in charge of data and analytics is especially clear. It has become a mandatory fixture of the enterprise.

"They've got to be focused in on this knowledge," Aiken said.

Both chief data officers and chief analytics officers fulfill important functions. But there is still disagreement as to what specific responsibilities should fall under each position since data and analytics are linked.

Most enterprises that have installed either role have opted for a chief data officer. The chief analytics officer, by comparison, is newer and has seen lower adoption rates. But this has led to some organizations placing analytics-specific tasks under the umbrella of chief data officer, which has created some confusion across industries as to which tasks should be placed under which role.

White said that the analytics components of the role are becoming so important to modern enterprises that they justify their own executive role and should not be simply thrown into a broader role that has responsibilities for things like governance.

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