APAC public sector organisations have yet to develop a clear understanding of the importance of data and the emerging role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) to the organisation. Recent research by Qlik shows that nearly one in two APAC CDOs felt their roles lacked clarity in job definition, job execution, or both, and a majority regret not having invested more in data-driven initiatives before the pandemic hit.
The role of the CDO has rapidly evolved over the past few years. Rather than just being the digital shepherds, CDOs need to be instigators for an ‘offensive’ data strategy to drive innovation.
Emphasising this point, Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President of APAC at Qlik, said “Organisations are realising the importance of receiving real-time value from data to trigger immediate action versus waiting for longer-term transformational efforts to come to fruition. The pandemic’s impact on the CDO’s role will differ across industries and countries.”
“CDOs in APAC also voiced technical and strategic concerns around data technology. There are organisational struggles with the technical aspects of data implementation involving data integration and the analysis of structured and unstructured data. On the strategic side, there are struggles with finding data literate staff and developing an organisational culture that understands the reasons and benefits of changing technology.”
This may be due to the lack of understanding of data’s value in driving policy development and decision-making amongst government leaders. In addition, the undefined role of the CDO leads to misalignment in job execution.
- Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President of APAC at Qlik
How to cultivate a data-driven culture
To foster the data culture, Thomas shared 2 pointers:
- Empower the workforce with the right tools and access to data
CDOs must assess their organisation’s current technological investments and identify up-to-date solutions that can match the speed of the business. Crucial adjustments like providing employees access to governed data and building AI capabilities into a modern analytics platform can foster a data-driven culture. Employees can augment their knowledge and intuition with the platform’s insights to tell sharper, actionable stories with data and by developing their data literacy skills.
- Encourage co-evolution
Organisations should regularly reassess their data tools and design compulsory data literacy training programmes. In addition, CDOs can look at pairing analytics experts with public sector domain experts throughout the organisation.
This promotes a culture of shared learning where groups can build on each other’s expertise to do more with data. This practice of continued upskilling will help organisations stay relevant in an evolving post-pandemic landscape.
To illustrate, Thomas gave an example of how the Singapore Management University (SMU) has managed to create a data culture:
“To date, SMU has trained hundreds of staff members through Qlik’s courses. The university also provides a platform for staff members to reach out to SMU data analytics experts for insights on how to create better work and learning experiences for students.
"The admissions department, for example, can now visualise large amounts of complex data easily to predict students’ GPAs and learning patterns, which allows the university to provide support for students who are falling behind – a huge step up from excel spreadsheets the team used to rely on.”
Citing research done together with Omdia entitled Emergence of the Public Sector CDO in APAC Thomas revealed that 62% of public sector CDOs felt they needed more leadership support to perform in their role. “It is vital for the C-Suite to facilitate a top-down approach with CDOs to successfully run these efforts of promoting data culture throughout the organisation.”
Why organisations need data governance
Thomas said that enterprise-grade data governance and security can help to protect the organisation’s data assets while providing users with fast, on-demand access to a single source of trusted, analytics-ready data. This enables employees to gain greater confidence in the insights uncovered from that data and make better, more reliable decisions.
“It is imperative for public sector organisations to encourage data governance to improve their internal processes and, by extension, the lives of citizens. It was surprising for us to learn from the Qlik and Omdia study that almost two thirds (of public sector organisations in APAC have yet to set up a data governance body, and only about a third see data governance as a priority (versus 71% in the US),” said Thomas.
“This may be due to the lack of understanding of data’s value in driving policy development and decision-making amongst government leaders. In addition, the undefined role of the CDO leads to misalignment in job execution. More clearly defining a CDO’s role can help ensure that data governance is not just a legal requirement, but also embedded into agency cultures and practices.
“In any case, it is great to see that the surveyed public sector CDOs feel inspired to spark change and formalise their presence. Close to half are placing top priorities on delivering a data strategy with a one-year action plan, introducing new technologies and improving data quality. This is a step in the right direction.”