The CDO’s Role in Marketing 2.0

At the 10th annual MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality (MIT CDOIQ) Symposium, the evolution of the CDO role—its past, its present, and its future—was thoroughly poked and prodded over the course of three days by notable CDOs and other leading business, data-science, and academic experts – with a special emphasis on how they can drive ROI and value.  

Data management and related issues most easily (arguably) finding their ROI-justified home in the marketing department, the connection between the CDO—or similarly titled top dog of data-management—and his or her organization’s marketing efforts was drawn quite obviously over the course of the Symposium.

“As the number keeps growing, there’s…been a change in the focus area around the CDO,” pointed out John Bottega, Senior Advisor of the Chief Data Officer Forum and Principal of Data Management Advisory Services LLC, in a panel discussion titled “Perspectives on Evolution of the CDO Role.”  “A lot of the initial CDO roles were specifically focused on data governance and data quality, taking these initiatives that had been in place for a while and elevating the importance of that in the organization.  [While] there’s still a focus on a number of those things … I think in the past couple of years, there have been a lot more Chief Data Officers who have started focusing on … monetizing the data.”

“Marketing organizations…are usually the ones who are passionate about data,” observed Mark Ramsey, CDO of GlaxoSmithKline, in a separate panel session, “Dynamics between the CDO and the CIO: The Case of a Major Pharmaceutical Company,” “[but] it is about trying to support the [product developer] to make better decisions.”

Ramsey—along with his CIO and co-panelist, Daniel LeBeau—went on to describe how the CDO’s job can be effectively used to link manufacturing and product-development processes (particularly, in his industry’s case, research and development) with commercial marketing initiatives via data-driven product management.

“In the past, we were doing fantastic analytics in one domain,” said LeBeau.  “The big shift that Mark is introducing now is the mix of domains that we never mixed in the past.” At the same time, the practicalities of the CDO position can combine to help ground the instincts of the marketing department.

“Marketers aren’t dumb; they’re not evil,” emphasized Andy Cutler, Director of Global Solutions for data-management firm RedPoint Global, in an onsite interview at MIT CDOIQ with DMN.  “People do get a little nervous about how much [of their] data is used—at the end of the day, it’s all about trying to make it a better experience for the customer.”

Consequently, explained Cutler, the CDO or equivalent must ensure that the customer’s experience is indeed improved by the marketing department’s use of data – specifically, by assuring the quality of the data and improving data governance practices. “You gotta avoid the creepy factor, for sure,” said Cutler.

These notions aren’t just some ivory-tower philosophy for Cutler.  They hit home for him, he explained, because of the unceasing complaints to which he gets subjected when his friends find out what he does for a living—complaints about cookies, web-tracking, and other marketing-driven uses of data. Cutler has a ready response: “Would you rather see an ad that’s meaningless to you?”

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