The Role of Chief Data Officer in Navigating the Covid-19 Crisis

It is the responsibility of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) of each sector and industry to sift through real-time data for deploying appropriate crisis response

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created tremendous pressure on the economy of every country it has hit. It has had an extraordinary impact on businesses and the livelihood of individuals. As the spread of the virus shows no signs of slowing down across the globe, governments of almost every impacted country are taking unprecedented but informed steps to keep their citizens safe. 


Which sectors require CDOs? 

The only way to keep the citizens safe and minimize the impact of the pandemic on the economy of a country is by taking well-informed and data-based decisions. It is the responsibility of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) of each sector and industry to sift through real-time data for deploying appropriate crisis response. CDOs play critical roles in the decision making in almost every industry including –

  1. Healthcare – based on information from the CDOs the hospitals and specialized care units can prepare PPEs, masks, beds, and ventilators for the influx of patients. 

  2. Grocery chains – depending on the real-time demand of food and essential items, grocery chains, and (online) delivery services can stock up on the necessities by predicting the incoming orders from people. 

  3. Telecom – as more people work remotely, telecom companies need the help of their CDOs to upgrade their services where there is a high demand for network traffic data. 

How are CDOs contributing to the informed decision making of their organizations? 

There are three main categories of actions CDOs must undertake to guide their organizations or companies successfully through the crisis and prepare their companies for the new normal that lies ahead of the pandemic –

Ensuring that the business/organization remains operational 

  1. Continuing the business operations- Continuing business operations rely upon the informed decision making of the board of directors (BOD). It is the CDO's responsibility to make sure that they collect and analyse real-time data from reliable sources. Apart from ensuring the continued safety of the other employees, CDOs should maintain the flexibility to revisit the core data platforms to ascertain reliability and authenticity. 
  2. Setting up a data-nerve centre- A dedicated COVID-19 data-nerve team can work remotely, but the team should always include data engineers, data scientists, report owners, data stewards, and data-visualization specialists. A data-nerve centre for a COVID-19 impacted business collects the correct input, process it in a way that is understandable for the BOD and to set up potential information-driven reactions to situations. It should work closely with the COVID-19 response team at the enterprise level and drive rapid actions including the development of executive dashboards and company performance reports. 
  3. Maintaining data safety and privacy- The organizations that are collecting bulk volumes of data need to ensure that their firewalls are up and running, but they also need a round-the-clock monitoring system. CDOs much work in coordination with the company IT and security team to ensure the maximum safety of the company data, which includes limiting the access of remote workers and allowing only specific devices to access company profiles. 

Bring profitable flexibility to company operations for oncoming challenges

  1. Chalk out plans for high-stress scenarios- CDOs need to collaborate with the company’s planning and strategy team to identify the possible high-stress scenarios arising from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They must also adjust data sources and processes for adapting to the multiple challenges that may arise during these high-octane situations. It might involve switching to new sources of data and adopting new data processing workflows to guide the decision making machinery of the company. 

  2. Find ways to reduce cost- Companies must reduce their operational cost during situations of high stress. CDOs need to collect investing data and work with the CFOs to reprioritize their resource allocations and invest in new, more secure opportunities. Information from the CDOs can help the CFO and his team to reduce company expenses and simplify their portfolios in the face of prolonged health and economic crisis. 

Planning and preparing for the post-COVID-19 days

  1. Seek future investment opportunities- The information provided by the CDO can contribute to building a 360-degree consumer portfolio. That can provide the finance team with new windows of opportunity for more profitable investments. Companies are already making it a practice to base their investment decisions largely on real-time information provided by their data officer and his/her team. It is paving the path for smarter investment initiatives by the company that will take care of long-term goals in the future. 

  2. Building a crisis plan- Most companies had no crisis plan when COVID-19 hit and they are currently developing one as they work in the COVID-19 ravaged economy. CDOs can work with the CFOs, CEOs, and other CxOs to develop a crisis plan that they can instantly deploy in the future during a similar global crisis. 

  3. Digitize majority of the workflow- Remote working has set new precedence and it has helped several organizations cut office-maintenance costs. It can become the future of work for innumerable teams and brands, if the CIOs can collect, process, and retain operational data from this period and present it during the new normal. 

While the pandemic has made it difficult for almost every individual and company, it has also taught most organizations that adaptability is the key to survival. With a little help from the CDOs, the company employees can remain safe and yet work remotely. And it is certainly practical to hope that this period will reinforce the importance of data safety and the ethical use of information.