Chief data officers have had their priorities reshuffled by the emergence of generative AI. But some long-standing areas of focus, such as creating value and data culture, endure.
That’s according to a new report that says many data executives are excited about the prospects of generative AI, and many believe that data and analytics will be crucial to those efforts.
“CDO Agenda 2024,” written by Thomas H. Davenport, a visiting scholar at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and data specialists Randy Bean and Richard Wang, is based on a summer 2023 survey of 334 people with CDO or equivalent titles.
Those CDOs said that their companies are in the early stages of generative AI experimentation and that they are continuing to prioritize other areas, such as change management, communication, and data evangelism. Data governance, a top concern for CDOs in last year’s survey, continues to be a priority, with companies exploring new governance strategies this year.
The survey was sponsored by Amazon Web Services and coordinated with the MIT International Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium.
The following are among the key insights from the report:
1. Creating visible value is still a key focus for many CDOs. The previous year’s survey showed that chief data officers were struggling to show how they were creating value. This remains true, with 44% of CDOs indicating that they continue to define success in terms of achieving business objectives as opposed to technical accomplishments. Analytics and AI are key ways of providing value, survey respondents said, while other approaches include offering data literacy training and adopting a data product management orientation.
2. CDOs are enthusiastic about the potential of generative AI. Generative AI dominated the 2023 survey, with 80% of CDOs predicting that it will transform their business environments. But CDOs also said that they don’t want to abandon existing data initiatives in favor of generative AI.
3. Ensuring data quality and finding the right use cases are the biggest roadblocks to benefiting from generative AI, according to 46% of the CDOs. Other challenges include creating guardrails around responsible AI and ensuring data security and privacy. About 44% of those surveyed said customer operations, such as customer support and chatbots, are the top use cases for generative AI, followed by personal productivity enhancements and software code generation.
4. Data strategy is crucial to generative AI success. About 93% of CDOs said data strategy is crucial to deriving value from generative AI. Respondents indicated that data integration and cleaning and assessing data to see whether it will support generative AI are also important components. Some 57% of CDOs said they have not yet made the necessary changes to their company’s data strategy to support generative AI.
5. Culture continues to be a challenge to using data effectively. CDOs are taking a slow-and-steady approach to changing their organization’s culture so that it’s more conducive to data use. More than half of the CDOs surveyed said that they’re trying to change culture through data literacy and change management programs.
6. Companies are using new data governance strategies. The CDOs indicated that they spend a significant amount of time on data governance activities. This includes new methods of establishing data governance, such as focusing on “enablement” (i.e., making it easier for people to do the right thing with data) and building common data platforms.
7. Data-driven transformation is a team sport. Successful CDOs focus on using data to help internal clients better achieve their objectives, according to the report. This means shifting the emphasis from their own performance to building coalitions to help their organizations succeed.