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Selecting a Chief Analytics Officer — You Are What You Analyze

By March 3, 2014Article

The simplistic model of an enterprise was that of collection of business processes. Those that executed processes efficiently with the fewest people did better than those that did not. The IT industry dutifully delivered to this metric by codifying, automating and scaling. 

Welcome to 2014. Productivity is table stakes. The company with  the best insights wins. Insights on the market. Insights on customers. Insights of the future. Leading companies no longer depend on efficiently processing transactions. They come from analytics. Furthermore, insights built on interactions (WhatsApp) are rarer and more valuable than insights built on transactions (pick one).   

In the Information Age, the new pecking order of enterprises ranges from the “Data Aware” (those that use data but do not currently view it as a strategic asset) to the “Data Derived” (those for which data is a key to their existence). The “Data-Driven” enterprises are the ones in between; data powers their growth but not their sustenance. 

What does this mean for the role of the Chief Analytics Officer (CAO)? Much depends on a  company’s position on the “data-fusion continuum” described above. Companies aspiring to move to a position where analytics is on the critical path for competitive advantage need to have a CAO with a seat at the table. However, the role of the CAO goes much beyond the technologist, statistician or “quant” expert.  

A recent report by Sand Hill Group, “Mindset Over Data Set: A Big Data Prescription for Setting the Market Pace,” prescribes a business leader to address the “far-reaching cultural and organizational changes necessitated by Big Data initiatives.” 

Here are some of the qualities of the CAO as described in the report. 

Historically, the function of CFOs, CIOs and CMOs evolved in the last 40 years as agents of transformation. The creation of these roles was invariably associated with the challenges of changing the status quo. In contrast, the CAO role must deal with the human factors of managing transformation while catering to a very broad range of stakeholders, functional areas and skill sets.

How do companies select a CAO? The right choice of the CAO candidate will require the same considerations that go into selecting any other candidate with a seat at the table. The evolution of the role also will be driven by the Darwinian forces that were at play with the creation of all other C-level functions. 

In the words of Stephen Hawking, “Some individuals are better able than others to draw the right conclusions about the world about them and act accordingly. These individuals will be more likely to survive and reproduce so their pattern of behavior and thought will become dominant.” 

Now, who wants to be a CAO? 

Download the Sand Hill Group report, “Mindset Over Data Set: A Big Data Prescription for Setting the Market Pace.” 

Shirish Netke is president and CEO of Amberoon, Inc., a provider of data-driven business perspective solutions. He has led companies in the area of software, services and electronic entertainment. He was one of the first evangelists for Java when it was launched by Sun Microsystems and has been quoted as an industry thought leader in the New York Times, Investors Business Daily, Chief Executive Magazine and Asia Times. Follow him on Twitter @CarpeDatumRx. 

M.R. Rangaswami is co-founder and CEO of Sand Hill Group and publisher of    





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