The Case for a Data Czar

Anthony Malakian, US Editor, WatersTechnology

As firms struggle to manage their data needs, maybe it's time to consider adding another C-level executive to the Board of Directors: A Data CIO.

You've read it probably a thousand times on and in the pages of Waters magazine─and we're far from being the only ones covering it: Data control is a massive challenge.

So with that in mind, if data storage, quality, and access are so daunting, shouldn't every firm have someone with the title Data CIO?

This idea was broached by Jake Thomases this week in a New Perspective  titled "Data is a Mess, So Why Not Unify it". The person to bring up the title was Howard Halberstein, who was most recently with Deutsche Bank. The unit that the Data CIO would run would be responsible for all of the organization's data, top to bottom and front to back.

Now in some ways this role already exists within some organizations, as the term Chief Data Officer (CDO) has been bestowed upon a few executives here and there in our industry. But the problem is that this person rarely, if ever, truly has the power to lead technology the way a CIO can. It wasn't until recently that CIOs (and even CTOs) finally got a seat on firm's executive boards─are these same companies now going to add one more seat to that table?

Obviously, this idea would apply to just the larger hedge funds, asset managers and investment banks. While smaller firms are struggling to cope with massive data volumes, too, they understandably don't tend to have a spare six-figure salary to hand out to an IT executive.

But a Data CIO makes complete sense. In closing out his article, I think Jake put it very nicely: "To aggregate existing data, formatting and tagging standards should be developed, distributed on an enterprise basis, and adhered to. Once that is done, and the data is collected into a single repository, it would be possible to put an individual in charge of the whole process─the aforementioned Data CIO."

This is something that firms with sufficient budget should seriously start considering, though creating a figurehead isn't enough. A Data CIO needs to have the legitimate authority to exact full control over a firm's data. I understand that's a scary thought, but if you think that problem of data is going to get easier to handle, you're destined to drown in the deluge.

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