I read with great interest a report by Grant Thornton and the Data Foundation which is the “state of the union” for the US federal data strategy. It’s here: On the maturation of data governance in US federal agencies. I found the report useful as a general report on what is happening. But I feel like the summary gets the job done. I think it doesn’t highlight the critical issues that need to be addressed if the goals of the Federal Data Strategy are to be met. There is additional insight in this article: Federal CDOs seek more advice on government data strategy.

The report

Overall, the report suggests that CDOs need more funding. They need more clarity from OMB on their role and responsibilities. They are doing well in setting up the data governance framework, data cataloging, and some data management efforts. The report makes you think they’re fine.

Fittingly, the central message of the federal data strategy is that CDOs should help business leaders improve their decision-making capabilities. How this is achieved with data and catalogs of data, without any reliance or reference to analytics, is beyond me. There is a very important reason why we are called “Data and Analytics”. Data fuels action and analysis; analysis feeds decisions. A CDO that does not include analysis is a fighter with one arm tied behind their back.

Data governance more predictable than ever

Then again, what do you think happens to a data governance program that focuses on data? Or standards, cataloging data issues, principles and architecture? The data governance effort that federal agencies are working on is not the data governance they need. He seems quite familiar with the programs peddled in the 1980s.

Data governance programs need to become data and analytics governance programs. They need to align with data (and analytics) strategies that put business results first. Thus, governance efforts should first focus on business decisions and outcomes. Federal efforts appear to be on shaky ground, according to the report.

What works and doesn’t work

Our research (seven or more years on the D&A leadership role) has addressed this challenge for several years. There is data suggesting several models – D&A Leaders (such as CDO, CDAO or equivalents) that:

  • Only own data and not analytics tend to struggle to realize business impact

  • Own data and analytics strategy, literacy, governance, and prioritization tend to do better than those that don’t.

  • Avoid conflict with CIOs who may generally be responsible for execution and also tend to do better than those who don’t.

Here are some of the results of our most recent survey:

The report asks for clarification on the role of the CDO. Perhaps the OMB is not sending a clear and simple message. Is analysis part of the standard role of the CDO of the federal agency?

It’s in the name

Maybe it’s the name. The term Chief Data Officer may imply a focus on data (or perhaps digital) and may not include analytics. This would make sense for people who want to discuss the difference between data and analytics. The thing is, the role or label isn’t that critical. What is essential is the extent of liability. Our research has been clear for many years now. Whatever the name of the role, there should be a D&A leader. This D&A leader should own D&A, not just the data. Maybe a more inclusive name might help…