Heather Wilson, Chief Data Officer at AIG, sat down with Stan Swete, Chief Technology Officer at Workday about her thoughts on the role of the chief data officer, and the importance of developing and implementing a holistic data strategy across all levels of an organization.
Stan Swete: How to be a chief data officer, both offensively and defensively
Heather Wilson: While the chief data officer is still a relatively new position in many organizations, Wilson noted that this individual plays a critical role. According to Wilson, the chief data officer handles both offensive and defensive tasks for an organization, and he or she must implement a data strategy across an organization to succeed: “It’s important that organizations ensure that they give their chief data officers both a defensive and offensive role. Because it’s important to know how the data originates; how it’s produced, governed, managed and controlled; and how it’s being used and consumed.”
The importance of communication with key executives
A chief data officer provides valuable information to many people within an organization, including key executives, Wilson said. As such, a chief data officer must understand the importance of communication with executives. “The communications to your executive team need to be able to drive value with the analytics,” Wilson said. “You also have to make sure that you articulate the benefits of a data management program. Third, you need to have metrics that will show them your progress on the data management maturity front.”
The value of data ownership
Data is useful for organizations that want to be viewed as industry leaders, Wilson noted. An organization that recognizes the value of data ownership, Wilson said, can implement processes to effectively manage large amounts of critical information: “It’s important that the business understands that they own the data, that they’re using it and that we will own it through the databases and product processors for them. It’s important that they prioritize what critical data elements are most important to them and to the business.”
“The communications to your executive team need to be able to drive value with the analytics.”
How to develop a data management strategy
With data management, there are several best practices an organization must follow to succeed, Wilson said. If an organization understands its data, creates a good oversight sponsorship committee and makes data a part of its culture, Wilson said, it could reap the rewards of its data management strategy immediately. In addition, Wilson acknowledged that a data management strategy should incorporate both an organization’s offensive and defensive plans: “Ensure you have a formal, methodical roadmap that plays both to the defensive and the offensive approaches because defense alone only gets you so far. Our regulators are looking for the ideal governance plan, the ideal data centralization plan and the ideal data quality plan.”
How to bridge the communication gap between different departments
A good operating engagement model can help an organization in a number of ways, Wilson said. In fact, this model can promote collaboration between different departments, which can have far-flung effects on an organization. “It’s important that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities so that they can focus on the right elements and do the mapping back to the right systems. Then the data team that’s profiling and analyzing the data and working with the application owners can get you results,” Wilson added.
However, Wilson said that an organization must continue to provide learning opportunities to its staff to ensure it succeeds for years to come. There are many opportunities to expand, particularly in today’s economic climate, and Wilson stated that an organization that makes data a part of its everyday operations could better manage its processes and procedures.
“There’s a constant education, awareness development and training that has to happen. It’s not about letting someone come in and start to govern and manage the data, and then we’ll suddenly have an opportunity to have a big data environment with more accessibility. There’s a big change component within all of that, and you have to realize that and bring people along with you at all levels of the organization,” Wilson said.•
Heather H. Wilson is the Chief Data Officer of AIG. Prior to she was Chief Data Officer and Global Head of Analytics for Citigroup. Prior to Citi, she was the Global Head of Information Strategy, Data Governance and Innovation/Advanced Technology at Kaiser Permanente. Heather was a senior partner at Knightsbridge and CSC Consulting and worked for an extended period of time at Deloitte and Accenture.
Heather graduated Summa Cum Laude from Shenandoah University earning her International Business Degree with minors in Japanese and Russian from Shenandoah University. Heather is a Trustee at Shenandoah University and serves on the Future Business Leaders of America Foundation that she spearheaded. Heather launched the Kaiser Permanente Women in Technology group focused on mentoring, innovation and retention for women in math, technology and science. She was an executive member of Citi4Women.
Stan Swete is chief technology officer at Workday and is responsible for Workday’s overall technology strategy, direction and execution.
Stan was one of Workday’s first employees, joining the company in 2005. Prior to Workday, Stan spent 10 years at PeopleSoft in a number of key leadership roles, including head of the products and technology organization that included more than 4,000 employees. He was also manager of tools development, general manager of financial applications, general manager of customer relationship management systems and was responsible for the initial release of PeopleSoft’s Internet architecture. Prior to PeopleSoft, Stan spent 10 years with ASK Computer Systems, including management of ASK’s VAX product line.
Stan holds a bachelor of science degree and a master of science degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University.
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