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Data executives empowered: The importance of the data community and elevating the CDO

Almost 20 years ago, Capital One recognized the need for one person to oversee their data security, quality, and privacy, and the role of the Chief Data Officer was born. Now reports show that 68% of organizations have a CDO (Harvard Business Review, 2020). And while the role has become more common and has significantly evolved, many data executives are still struggling to get a seat at the table or bring data to the forefront of their organization. In fact, in a recent survey, only 28% of respondents agreed that the role was successful and established.

Company leaders agree that there needs to be a single point of accountability to manage the various dimensions of data inside and outside of the enterprise, including the quality and availability of that data. But now we are at a crossroads — what is the best way to align the work that the CDO does with the strategy of the business as a whole?

The reality is that CDOs often struggle to find the internal and external support and resources needed to educate others to align with the organization’s goals. Implementing enterprise data governance, data architecture, data asset development, data science, and advanced analytics capabilities — such as machine learning and video analytics — at scale, is not an easy task. To be successful, data executives need support, resources, and communities focused on the elevation of data.

We are proud to continue to help these communities come to life for the benefit of our colleagues and clients, establishing local resources here in the Midwest with global scale, reach, and impact.

Read on as Mark Johnson, our Executive Leader for Data Management and Analytics, provides insight on the current state of data and the CDO, and provides details on multiple opportunities for data leaders of different levels to get more involved in the data community.

Q: How has the role of data changed/evolved for organizations?

The reality is that information is everything. This global pandemic proved that to many organizations. For some, it showed that their digital network was ready, and they were aptly prepared to take on COVID. For others, it has forced them to recognize their own immaturity with data and analytics.

On its own, managing data is not exciting — the information just sort of exists. To give data value, you have to put it to use.

And so, I think we are going to see the Chief Data Officer and/or Chief Data Analytics Officer really find their own in the coming years. It’s time for their seat at the table. The C-suite is now asking questions that can only be answered with data, and now they truly understand both the value and consequences of the data game.  

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing CDOs/data leaders today?

I think that the biggest challenge for data executives today is the acquisition of talent that is seasoned and experienced where you need them to be for your organization. Higher education hasn’t necessarily kept up with the data world, and often times it takes additional training to reach the right levels. The reality is that right now the talent is manufactured in the real world. Data executives have to be connected and equipped to mentor, train, and keep the right people.

Q: You’ve mentioned that data leaders need to connect with each other. What value can people expect from these data communities?

I think there is tremendous value. As we are seeing the power of data evolve in organizations, and the role of data leaders evolve as well, I think coming together to collaborate and share elevates the leader, the organization, and the view of data as a whole. In these communities, it gives people a safe space to talk about how they are doing, what they are doing, what their biggest challenges are, and what solutions are working for them. These communities have truly become both a learning laboratory and an accelerator for data.

Q: As a big proponent of connecting data leaders, you have been involved in creating different opportunities for people to get together. What groups/events would you recommend, and how can people get involved?

I personally have been involved with the MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium (MIT CDOIQ), which is such a great opportunity to start with for connection. It has developed into additional opportunities for data leaders at all levels to get involved and create the kind of community we need to truly elevate the value of data. Organizations like the CDO Magazine, the creation of CDO roundtables across the nation, and the International Society of Chief Data Officers (isCDO) all evolved from connecting data leaders and identifying common challenges.


The International MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium (MIT CDOIQ) is one of the key events for sharing and exchanging cutting-edge ideas and creating a space for discussion between data executives across industries.

While resolving data issues at the Department of Defense, the symposium founder, Dr. Wang, recognized the need to bring data people together. Now in its 15th year, MIT CDOIQ is a premier event designed to advance knowledge, accelerate the adoption of the role of the Chief Data Officer, and change how data is leveraged in organizations across industries and geographies.

Fusion has been a sponsor of this symposium for seven years now, and we are so excited to see how the event has grown. Designed for the CDO or top data executive in your organization, this is a space to really connect with other top industry leaders.

CDO Roundtables

Fusion has always been focused on building community and connecting people. And when one of our clients, a Fortune 500 retailer, mentioned wanting to talk with other data leaders from similar corporations, we realized that there was a big gap here — there was no space that existed where data leaders could informally come together, without sales pitches and vendor influence, and simply talk.

That’s how the CDO roundtables were born — a place that allows data leaders to get to know each other, collaborate, accelerate knowledge growth, and problem solve.

We just started two years ago in Cincinnati, but now, now we’ve expanded to multiple markets including Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, and Miami.

These groups are designed for your CDO/CDAO and truly create an environment for unfiltered peer-to-peer discussion that helps solves data leadership challenges across industries.

If you’re interested in joining one of these roundtables or starting one in your market, email me or message me on LinkedIn.  I’m here and ready to get these roundtables started with executives in as many communities as I can. The more communities we have, the more data leaders and organizations we can serve.

International Society of Chief Data Officers (isCDO)

Launched out of the MIT CDOIQ symposium, the isCDO is a vendor-neutral organization designed to promote data leadership. I am excited to be a founding member of this organization, along with our Vice President of Strategy, David Levine. Our ultimate goal is to create a space that serves as a peer-advisory resource and enables enterprises to truly realize the value of data-driven decision making.

With multiple membership options available, isCDO is the perfect opportunity for data leaders looking to connect with their peers and gain a competitive advantage by focusing on high-quality data and analytics.

CDO Magazine

I am really proud to be a founder of the CDO magazine, as it really is a resource for all business leaders, not just the CDO. We designed the magazine to be a resource for C-suite leaders — to educate and inform on the value proposition, strategies, and best practices that optimize long-term business value from investments in enterprise data management and analytics capabilities.  

Check out the publication here. And if you’re interested in contributing content or being interviewed, let me know at


The role of the CDO is integral to organizations, but it’s still evolving. Now more than ever, it is important that data leaders come together to collaborate and problem-solve.

Fusion is excited to be a part of each of these initiatives, and we are committed to being an agent of change in the communities we serve and beyond. By connecting global thought leaders we believe that organizations will realize the value of data to power their digital transformation.

If you’re interested in joining any of these data communities or just have questions, feel free to reach out to Mark via email or on LinkedIn.

About the author

New Era Technology

New Era Technology creates powerful digital, data, and technology solutions that keep companies moving forward in a rapidly changing world. Our 500+ consultants use data insights, experience design, and tech innovation to help you reimagine your business for whatever comes next.

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