The IBM Chief Data Officer Strategy Summit, a bi-annual event hosted by IBM, just wrapped up its fall edition. At this event, Chief Data Officers from around the world to discuss and share insights as peers. SHIFT Communications and NATIONAL Public Relations sent a team of three to the Boston CDO Strategy Summit to learn and share data-driven experiences.

What’s on the minds of Chief Data Officers as we talked for two days about key issues in data?

AI and Machine Learning

Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive computing were dominant topics during the event. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, only 34% of 7,000 CxOs surveyed indicated that they had made investments in AI, but an additional 23% aspired to begin. With such significant investments in AI, CDOs shared concerns about AI governance, especially around generated data such as meta-data.

Additionally, CDOs wanted to learn how to use AI and machine learning to amplify and scale value. How do we stimulate disproportionate business growth compared to the number of people we employ? Many of the AI and machine learning experts at the CDO Summit focused on reinventing the customer experience with AI, from chatbots to true personalization.

I took some time on The Cube to discuss machine learning as well as the future of media:

Data Governance

A second major area of focus for the CDO is data governance, especially with massive changes coming to data regulation such as GDPR. CDOs at lagging companies face serious risks for compliance failures, and more than a few had questions about how to accelerate compliance using tools such as robotic process automation and machine learning.

Several CDOs observed that while GDPR compliance will be onerous in the short term, properly done, it will be a solid foundation for growth. Implementing and adhering to GDPR is ultimately in the best interest of customers, and companies who execute well will create the best customer experiences.

Innovation and Digital Transformation

The third major area of discussion at the CDO Summit was around innovation and digital transformation. How do we scale transformation? How does digital transformation drive growth? IBM SVP James Kavanaugh explained that three pillars were required to drive maximum value from digital transformation efforts:

  • Agile technology infrastructure, to better adapt to changes
  • Robust governance, to ensure nothing gets lost along the way
  • Flexible people and culture, willing and eager to change

Implications for Marketing and PR

While the Chief Data Officer may not have a direct connection to corporate communications, public relations, or marketing, their work directly impacts us. Fellow IBM social influencer Tripp Braden defined the CDO wonderfully:

The CFO knows where all the money is and how it’s being used. The CDO knows where all the data is and how it’s being used.

The more data-driven our marketing and communications become, the more integrated we will need to be with the office of the CDO. We will need to work with the CDO for data storage, processing, analysis, and delivery to stakeholders, especially in larger organizations.

Additionally, for the most savvy marketers and communicators, we will leverage digital transformation and compliance efforts and resources to help implement data-driven best practices across our organizations. Strong collaboration with the CDO will make the implementation of these best practices easier than ever.

Our thanks to IBM for hosting me, Katie Lioy, and Geneviève Clavet at the IBM CDO Strategy Summit.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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