Ethics are at the core of the CDO’s responsibilities


Operating in a digital era where data has become a tradeable commodity and quantifying the value of data a business-critical focus, the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) has come into the limelight sharply over the last few years.

While initially this role was confused to be similar to that of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and then shifted to focus more on data-related technicalities, many businesses wanting to build valuable data-related strategies that see real return on investments have very fast come to realise that the CDO role is actually not a technical role at all. Rather, it is a role that encompasses a number of critical business aspects – all of which are imperative today to achieve real and credible data success.

The key here – and for this digital framework we conduct business in – is undeniably the word credible and is in fact such an important word that it is redefining the overall core roles and responsibilities of the CDO – whether they like it or not!

It is now commonly understood and agreed that data is a growing business asset. In fact, Gartner has predicted that by 2022, 90% of corporate strategies will explicitly mention information as a critical enterprise asset, along with analytics as an essential competency.

However, like many other business assets, data does not come without associated risk, where we are seeing data being attacked and exploited continuously through the acts of cybercrime. In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Risks Report 2019, both large-scale cyberattacks and mass incidents of data theft feature in the top five most likely risks facing the world today.

This is resulting in a society heavily concerned about data trust – linked to data privacy and data security. And, how is a business going to derive any form of value from data when an issue of trust is present?

As such, a major shift towards the protection and handling of data with the introduction of various data standards, regulations and rules has occurred. This is not only in an attempt to keep data safe and private, but to also ensure that the value being derived from data is done ethically.

This brings me back to that key word ‘credible’. As the custodian of the data a business holds, the realities outlined above are shaping the CDO to become the master of ensuring that governance and regulation is not only followed, but that deriving insight from any and all data is done ethically – no matter what.

Although thought to be an overall business responsibility, ethical conduct associated to data is innately becoming a core job spec of the CDO – and of course this is a major responsibility. While top management will surely also support this, the reality is that the CDO of today must be the champion of ethical data business practice and look at ways to drive and promote this across the entire business – even if it means potential loss of profit.

Data is a commodity, but not at the hands of unethical analysis or the compromising of trust. And if a CDO is ever put in the position of having to choose between ethics and profit, it is a no brainer that ethics must always win.

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