Technics Publications

The CDO Journey

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The CDO Journey: Insights and Advice for Data Leaders, by Peter Aiken, Todd Harbour, Ed Kelly, Burt Walsh, and Kathy Walter

Let the masters guide you on your Chief Data Officer (CDO) journey!


Chapter 1: Put Data First

Where are the CDOs?
Data leadership, the Red Sox, and the Yankees
As the Beatles say: Come Together
The data management solution
Understand your roots
Keep your eye on the ball
Stick to your knitting
Cost of doing data business
How sausage gets made
You’ve got a deal
Key takeaways

Chapter 2: That’s the way we do it

Through the looking glass
We ain’t so different after all
Three Ps and a T
Get the organization ready for change
Dig a little
Getting things going
Teach, learn, grow
Program and business leadership
Information technology leadership
Data practitioners
Key takeaways

Chapter 3: Growing up Data

Get smart with data—get proficient
Don’t reinvent the wheel
A recipe for data
DMM level 1: It works for me
DMM level 2: Make the same mistake at least two times in a row
DMM level 3: Getting the organization in shape
DMM level 4: Count the things that matter
DMM level 5: Data leads the way
Key takeaways

Chapter 4: Focus, Focus, Focus

Some tips for success
Target short-term wins
Fight overcommitment
Rack up small wins for big wins
A chilly example
Sell snow to Eskimos
Be empathic not sympathetic
Five P’s in a pod
Keep in contact
Practice Your pitch
Spin a yarn for ‘em
Words matter
Just like chocolate cake
Lines on the road
Risky business
New words
Key takeaways

Chapter 5: Ready, Fire, Aim

Your first 100 days
Triage your organization
Avoid dis-integration
Copy from the other guy
The hard stuff is the soft stuff
It’s getting awkward
What’s in it for me?
Hobnobbing and rubbing elbows
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Chief Analytics Officer (CAO)
Privacy Officer (PO)
Chief Archivist (CA)
General Counsel (GC)
The Legislature (Assembly or Council)
Chief Executive (Governor, City Manager)
Key takeaways

Chapter 6: Data Planning

Make data the cornerstone
Data’s valuable, right?
Insatiable appetite for data
The experts agree
Wash, rinse, and repeat

Chapter 7: Culture Eats Data for Breakfast

Fix the real problems
Where does it hurt most?
Where did I put those stakeholders?
Partner with IT
Just the facts Ma’am
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Key takeaways

Chapter 8: Your Assets are on the Line

As Norm used to say: Measure twice
Lists are your friends
When do you inventory data?
How do you build a data inventory?
Describing data assets
Leveraging your data catalog
Controlling costs with a data inventory
The heart of data governance
North to Alaska
Leading the way
Challenges to data governance
Who makes the call?
Deconflict the roles
Measuring progress
Key takeaways

Chapter 9: Setting up Shop

Let’s get started
Where does it hurt?
Some practical issues
Securing executive approval
Executive mandate
Set up rules
Who reports to whom?
Make a plan
Get some top cover
Show them how to do it
Key takeaways

Chapter 10: What the *Bleep* Just Happened?

An answer for every question
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Data analytics—it adds up
Step 1: Define your question
Step 2: Establish measurement priorities
Selecting what to measure
Determining how to measure it
Step 3: Collect data
Step 4: Analyze data
Step 5: Interpret results
Warning: dashboards may blind you!
Key takeaways

Chapter 11: Federal Changes

Foundations for Evidence-Based Policy Act of 2018 (FEPA)
TITLE I: Federal Evidence-Building Activities
TITLE II: Open Government Data Act
Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act
Data inventory and federal data catalog
Chief Data Officer
Chief Data Officer Council
Expanding the CDO role
TITLE III: Confidential Information Protection and the Statistical Efficiency Act of 2018
Confidential information processing protection
Statistical efficiency
Designated statistical agencies
Access to data for evidence
What does this mean?
Potential challenges and unanswered questions

Chapter 12: What Some States are Doing

State of Arkansas: Data inventory
State of Indiana: Data analytics
State of Michigan: Executive charter
State of Texas: Information sharing
Key takeaways

The CDO is a new business role, and just starting to appear in state, local, and federal governments. Like many new roles, the CDO’s responsibilities are continuously evolving and changing. Most institutions are not consistent with assigning CDO responsibilities, and this lack of standardization is of great concern.

Also, some say public and private sector CDOs are dramatically different. We don’t believe that. We think CDOs are more similar than dissimilar. More importantly, though, we think private and public CDOs can learn from each other. We’ve created this book to help all CDOs, public and private. This book is about ideas and recommendations which have broad application—on the shop floor, in a conference room, or even in legislative chambers. Apply our advice to smooth your ride during the CDO journey.

Use our ideas and suggestions in ways that work for you, because every organization and data journey is different. These ideas are here to help you avoid some of our frustrations. We hope this can reach executives, managers, legislators, and others leading organizations to help bridge explanations of new vocabulary, ideas, and processes. Ultimately, we think this book will help you create data-centric value for your organization.

About Peter, Todd, Ed, Burt, and Kathy

Peter Aiken, an acknowledged Data Management (DM) authority, is an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, past President DAMA International, and Associate Director of the MIT International Society of Chief Data Officers. For more than 35 years, Peter has learned from working with hundreds of data management practices in 30 countries including some of the world’s most important. Among his 10 books are the first on CDOs (the case for data leadership), the first describing the monetization of data for profit/good, and the first on modern strategic data thinking. International recognition has resulted in an intensive schedule of events worldwide. Peter also hosts the longest-running DM webinar series (hosted by In 1999 (before Google, before data was big, and before data science), he founded Data Blueprint, a consulting firm that has helped more than 150 organizations leverage data for profit, improvement, competitive advantage and operational efficiencies.

Todd Harbour has over 30 years of government and business experience and is a recognized data expert and business leader. As a government executive, Todd was the Chief Data Officer (CDO) for New York State and CDO for the Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) where he led the development and operation of big data analytics capabilities across government. Todd also led many data initiatives that set up rules of engagement, decision rights, and the accountabilities for the effective management of data assets. As an industry expert, Todd served as the Vice President of Federal Services for FGM for over 15 years, building the company’s Federal and international practice and helping FGM achieve a successful exit in 2012. Todd is also an Associate Director of the MIT-based International Society of Chief Data Officers and member of the Data Management Association (DAMA). Todd is the author of two books and several papers on data management and data leadership including the first book on modern strategic data thinking. His latest book offers real-world recommendations to executive data leaders. Todd is a certified Project and Program Management Professional (PMP and PgMP), and Chief Information Officer (CIO) with the Project Management Institute and the National Defense University, respectively. Todd is also a certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) and Data Governance and Stewardship Professional (DGSP) with the Data Management Association (DAMA). Todd currently holds four graduate degrees in information systems, project management, business administration, and government information leadership.

Ed Kelly has over 30 years of experience in business and information technology. He currently serves as the Statewide Data Coordinator for the Department of Information Resources (DIR). In his role, he works with agencies and institutions of higher education to collaboratively develop data policies, standards, and best practices to improve data governance and integrity statewide. Ed is also responsible for seeking out opportunities for data sharing across government agencies, to increase government transparency, reduce duplicative information collection, and improve data management and analysis. Prior to joining DIR, he held positions with the Texas Department of Agriculture as Chief Administrative Officer and with the Texas Department of Public Safety as Chief Information Officer. Ed’s experience includes a variety of roles in the private sector including State Street Bank and Trust Company, Fidelity Investments, Dell Computer, Dell Financial Services, and Unisys Corporation.

Burt Walsh brings over 20 years of experience in the IT industry in various technical and management roles. He has extensive knowledge of programming languages, enterprise systems, technology frameworks, data conversion, operating systems, and design methodologies. Prior to joining AST, Burt served as Development Lead—Cloud Services with Amazon Web Services and Principal Software Engineer with Computer Science Corporation. Some of his earlier roles include Lead Architect with the Office of Early Learning, Lead Architect/Project Manager with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as various roles with Bank of America. Burt holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Florida State University and a Master of Science in Computer Science.

Kathy Walter has a decade of experience managing IT projects, first as a COBOL programmer in the utilities industry, then as an IT Project Manager in a variety of website consulting firms and in the financial services industry. She also worked for nearly a decade in product management and development as Technical Product Manager at Instinet Corporation, Associate Brand Manager at Gillette and Proctor & Gamble, as well as Senior Product Manager for Iron Mountain, before branching into the education industry working as Executive Director, Product Development, for NYC Department of Education. Kathy started her own company, Nsoma, working with schools and education companies on data and technology issues. Kathy currently works as an attorney for the State of New York focused on issues of consumer protection and data privacy. She also works with businesses and non-profits on corporate issues, including intellectual property protection and with pro bono clients facing credit debt, housing, immigration, and family law matters. Kathy holds a B.S. in Applied Math from Union College, an M.B.A. from NYU’s Stern School of Business, and a J.D. with a concentration in Information Law and Intellectual Property from Fordham University School of Law. Kathy also holds a graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and has been an ESL educator at Northeastern University and Cambridge Learning Center, an ESL curriculum consultant with the YearUp program in Boston, and a program developer for several teaching projects in Uganda.


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