Tom Schwieters
Tom Schwieters (Vice President)
Chris Weston
Chris Weston (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)

What follows is a summary of the meeting of the IDC Digital Leadership Community (DLC) held on the 14th of October 2021. CIOs and other digital leaders from many countries across Europe joined the conversation to share their experiences around data management.

Another excellent discussion was had on Thursday at IDC’s fortnightly Digital Leadership Community meeting. Although it is fair to say that more questions were raised than answered during the session, the CIO participants made interesting contributions about the nature of data usage and management in their own organizations.  We heard many variations on the challenges of managing data, we learned about the different ownership models for data, and we explored the various data-related roles.

The participating organizations were at different levels of maturity in terms of data management.  Some organizations are just beginning to get their head around data ownership, data stewardship, and data governance.  Others who already have some of these processes in place, and have a chief data officer overseeing processes, still suffer from very different standards for handling data across divisions and geographies.

Yet another participant cited the practice common in his organization of taking data from corporate systems and moving them to shadow IT systems for analysis. However, the resulting reports, when consolidated, are often faulty as the users don’t understand the data well enough or don’t know how to manipulate it without introducing errors.

The tension between wanting to encourage data sharing, on the one hand, and the requirement to maintain compliance, on the other, was highlighted by one insightful contributor. Several of the participants active in the real estate sector brought up the challenges of integrating data from Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems into the ongoing processes of the company, particularly as BIM systems tend to be used by architects, and the data is often not compatible with the systems used by those responsible for building maintenance. 

Data ownership is also a major question for many organizations.  Does the sales team own the client data?  Or the marketing team?  Who is responsible for keeping data current?  One attendee quipped that you can quickly find the real owner of the data when something goes wrong – e.g. data is lost or can’t be accessed.  Should we keep data even if we have no use for it?  Should we have draconian policies to expunge data which we haven’t used for x years (absent any regulation to the contrary)?  With the extreme drop in per unit storage prices, there is much less emphasis than earlier on organized data deletion.  In terms of the ownership of data processes, some organizations have chief data officers.  That person can sometimes report to the CIO.  At one organization, the CDO sits in the marketing department.

IDC differentiates between four key data-oriented roles: 

  1. Data governors – who make and enforce the rules.
  2. Data engineers – who figure out the plumbing.
  3. Data innovators – who work with the business to find productive use cases.
  4. Data analysts/scientists – who have the tools and expertise to see patterns in the data.

A key question is where the CIO wants to be positioned among those activities.  In addition to the data engineer area, many CIOs seemed to lean towards the data innovator role as one which will bring more value and position IT as a driving force in the organization.

One of the participants raised the question of whether data is the new oil, or rather the new nuclear waste, littering our organizations with potentially toxic consequences for decades into the future.  Something all organisations might consider as they review their data strategies.

The IDC Digital Leadership Community meets virtually every two weeks to discuss a topic of importance to the group.  Please get in touch if you’re an IT leader in a European organization so that we can invite you to be part of our conversation.

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