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Data Management Now has a Seat in the C-Suite

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For a growing number of companies, data is everything. It’s their customers’ personal information, it’s the product they’re marketing, and it’s often what sets them apart from their competition. It’s their biggest asset, and losing control of it is their biggest liability.

Data is also everywhere. It’s on corporate networks. It’s in the cloud. It's on the personal devices of your employees, customers, and partners. Universal access to it has come to define modern convenience and a business’s efficiency.

For corporate tech leaders, classifying that data in order to prioritize its protection used to be handled by data guardians in IT, using relatively simple tools that allowed them to tag information for safeguarding, destruction, or activities like a litigation review. But as data has grown in amount and importance—and as it has migrated to more and more locations—its classification is shifting into a full-time role for a new senior employee.

Tomorrow’s Chief Data Officer (CDO) will oversee the governance structure of an organization’s data, coordinate the data management strategy, and lead the transition of treating data as a strategic asset that must be secure and available, to help the organization achieve its business objectives.

Here are three things to keep in mind when structuring the role or making a hire:

Organizing the position correctly is key.

A successful CDO’s skillset will focus on information security, compliance, and, above all, the ability to communicate with business and technology stakeholders. Your CDO needs to have direct relationships across all lines of the organization, including operations, legal and compliance, and technology. Before bringing anyone on board, confirm that all groups understand the role and that a space can be opened up without creating conflicts.

Provide her all necessary access to your company’s front lines.

Today, data loss or theft can occur internally and externally, often through mishandling by an employee with remote network access, or by a cyber criminal with malicious intent. Being able to identify, classify, and help protect data at this level will be key to your CDO’s performance.

Get comfortable—really comfortable—with change.

Data’s form and function is ever-changing, just like the technologies your organization uses to deploy it. The scope of this job should never stop evolving. A good CDO needs the latitude to continuously reevaluate her portfolio, rather than settle into an inflexible pattern. Change is good!

Bringing a dedicated classification specialist on board won’t necessarily reduce the data-related dangers your organization faces, but it will definitely make it better prepared for the unexpected. When that day comes, the program your CDO has put into place will help you define the event, measure the risk, and respond accordingly.

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