Is the “New CIO” the Über-Data Scientist?


Is the new CIO the suoer-data-scientistIn the executive, IT, and especially BI worlds, there is a lot of talk about two new and fast-changing job positions. Coincidently, both are very interesting as well as demanding positions, namely that of the “New CIO” and that of the Data Scientist. In this post I investigate whether there are any parallels between these two roles.

“New CIO”

New, more consumer-oriented business models require a new breed of business and technology leader straddling both the IT and business sides of the organisation. He / she needs to handle many new and sometimes overlapping disruptive technologies, align these new technologies to generate business value while carefully considering and managing technological feasibility, implementation and deployment. This “New CIO” has to come up with strategies to leverage existing information assets, while innovating information as a key business driver. This person has to be a true business leader with a strong technology and especially informational foundation.

As the lines between business strategy and IT strategy converge, this “New CIO” has to juggle between four different types of C”I”O personas:

  • The more traditional Chief “Infrastructure” Officer must focus on cost reductions and system efficiencies related to IT technologies. A lot of this is focussed on keeping existing systems running and managing legacy and current IT infrastructure. Disruptive technologies such as virtualization and the cloud also have to be considered in cost reduction initiatives. This is purely technology-oriented role.
  • The Chief “Integration” Officer has to manage the technical connections between internal and external systems. A large collection of business processes, data, application systems and inter-connection points have to be integrated, sometimes also incorporating legacy systems, service-oriented architectures and newer cloud-based infrastructures, applications and services. Another technological role, but influenced by perceived business benefits.
  • The Chief “Intelligence” Officer has to empower the business by providing new and actionable insights, as derived from new and existing data – obtained from both internal and external sources. The prime focus is to improve the business-users’ access to information, with the objective of providing the right data to the right person at the right time through the right interface. The timeliness of information access and delivery has become very important. This role straddles the business-BI gap.
  • The Chief “Innovation” Officer has to identify disruptive technologies and disruptive applications of information and analytics that will directly affect the business strategy. These are often done as pilot or discovery projects. The Chief Innovation Officer must have a strong business background, and must be prepared to move fast, fail fast, and move on. This is primarily a business-focussed role.

Data Scientist

The typical data scientist performs a combination of technical IT tasks, various forms of data analysis and high-end consulting to the business. The term “data scientist” has become the label for the whole package consisting of a data analyst, data specialist, business intelligence analyst and data engineer, all in one person.

In fact, a full-blown Data Scientist has to cover the following 4 areas that comprise business analytics:

Business analytics - the domain of the data scientist


Parallel lines

If we analyse these two roles together, there seem to be quite a number of parallels:

  • Both roles have to be much more aware of the nature of the business than the traditional more technical CIO and the more technical data analyst. Incumbents in both roles have to know the business inside-out – especially the business objectives, drivers, strategic business initiatives and so on.
  • Both roles have to start leading the business from an information-insight point of view, and come up with insights of how the information can be used to directly affect the bottom line.
  • Both roles require a deeper understanding as to how analytics work, including advanced analytics (e.g. predictive, segmentation, churn, forecasting models) and what contribution analytical insights can make to affect or change the business strategy.
  • The traditional more technical CIO and the more technical data analysts were rewarded when technical processes ran smoothly and cost-effectively. Accolades for the “New CIO” and the data scientist will come when they produce insights that will make a positive difference in the business – so in both cases, technical implementation by IT has just become the enabler.
  • For a financial viewpoint, both positions’ focus has changed from cost management to revenue generation.

Career advice

For my young readers out there… fancy becoming an executive one day? CIO maybe? My recommendation will be to cut your teeth as a business-focussed data scientist (read the job spec here) or a BI Business Analyst, build up a lot of experience in the business – maybe focussing on one particular industry – then preferably top that with an MBA, then you should be pretty well suited and qualified for that “New CIO” position on the board.

Concluding thoughts

If we look at the overlaps between the positions, as well as the parallels between what these roles are meant to focus on, for me there is no doubt that the “New CIO” is without doubt the “Uber Data Scientist”. What the data scientist does in the business, the “New CIO” has to do at the executive level. In fact, if they both exist and if both are doing what they are supposed to, they should actually become best mates in the organisation. The data scientist becomes they key enabler and “data jockey” for the “New CIO” to take and drive the insights and innovations at the executive level.

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