Robert Morison

Robert Morison serves as Lead Faculty for IIA’s Enterprise Research Subscription. An accomplished business researcher, writer, discussion leader, and management consultant, he has been leading breakthrough research at the intersection of business, technology, and human asset management for more than 20 years.

Bob is a co-author of Analytics At Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results (Harvard Business Press, 2010), Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills And Talent (Harvard Business Press, 2006), and three Harvard Business Review articles, one of which received a McKinsey Award as best article of 2004. He holds an A.B. from Dartmouth College and an M.A. from Boston University.

5 Questions With Bob Morison

1. Why are companies now looking to appoint or hire a CDO, CDO or both?

Leveraging data and analytics has become a competitive necessity as well as opportunity. Enterprises are building their analytical capability and often consolidating their analytics groups. Driving the business use of data and analytics, and managing analytics organizations, takes executive-level leadership.

Interestingly, we regularly hear the question, "How should we organize our analysts?" Not so often do we hear "What kind of person should lead our data and analytics organizations?" Our recent IIA research helped answer that second question.

2. What are the key differentiating factors for each role?

Many executives fill both roles, more often under the CAO title. And we maintain that data and analytics should be organizationally aligned if possible - under one person or with CAO and CDO reporting to the same person. After all, data is the raw material for analytics, and analytical needs and opportunities drive data development.

With that in mind, the basic difference between the roles is that CAOs work more on the demand side. They are on "offense" enabling and encouraging the business to put data and analytics to work. CDOs work more on the supply side, providing the data for analytics and decision making. And they play "defense" in terms of protecting enterprise data assets and ensuring their quality and usefulness.

3. Do you feel having an appointed CDO/CAO is a good measure of an organization’s analytical maturity?

Yes. A turning point in analytical maturity comes when you take an enterprise view and make an enterprise commitment to capitalizing on data and analytics. Appointing executives responsible for those activities is a strong signal of commitment as well as a catalyst for advancing maturity further.

One qualification, however. The roles have to be purposeful, driven by the enterprise's strategy for exploiting data and analytics. They can't be cosmetic, as in "We'll call the head of our analytics group the CAO." Or "We'll appoint a CDO because that makes the regulators happy."

4. What needs to be done in order for these roles to thrive?

As you might expect, in interviewing these executives we heard a lot about top-management support and having the right resources to work with. But thriving is more a question of what CAOs and CDOs need to do themselves than what needs to be done for them.

Executives in both roles told us about how much time they spend "in the field" working with other business leaders, starting with the rest of the executive team. The term "evangelist" came up a lot. The enterprise may have made a commitment to data and analytics, but that doesn't mean everyone's in the game and knows how to play. So CAOs and CDOs create the conditions for their success by making units across the enterprise better customers for data and analytics.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to a CDO/CAO, what would it be?

Measure and communicate progress, performance, and success on two levels. The first is building the assets and capabilities to do the job - integrating data to get a 360-degree of the customer, adding data scientist skills for real-time analytics. The second - and more immediate - is contributing to very specific and tangible business results - we increased customer retention or underwriting accuracy, or we reduced service costs or time-to-market.

The second is more immediate because those specific successes get business attention and buy permission to get more assets in order. We see CDOs in particular spending the honeymoon period following their appointment getting assets in order, which is necessary but not sufficient for success. Then they reach a sometimes awkward point of, "We better start delivering visible value." Better to be delivering it all along.