CIOs: Urgent Data Problems

By Myles Suer

Published on September 20, 2021

CIOs: Urgent Data Problems

This last weekend, I asked CIOs two questions:

First, what data problems are most urgent for you to solve?

And second, what would be the business impact of solving them?

The answers reflected various levels of data maturity. But more importantly, the importance of fixing data governance was a core theme.

The CIO’s Role in Data

Before we dive in, let’s define the role of the CIO. From a high level, a CIO must play the role of “steward and ombudsman… The role should include data security, management, and governance for the enterprise.”

“CIOs should be an enabler to ensure data fully serves the organization. Data is the enterprise’s most valuable and irreplaceable business asset. This is why so many bad actors are focused globally on breaking into IT systems and taking it. The unfortunate truth is that most organizations greatly underuse what they have. Or they too tightly control and hoard data.”

Dion Hichcliffe, Constellation Research Analyst

Dion HinchcliffeConstellation Research Analyst

Urgent Problems

Data Governance

An ungoverned data landscape will descend into chaos. When there is no rhyme or reason behind data processes, distrust of data becomes a problem. Establishing baseline rules is absolutely essential, and a core focus of leading CIOs.

“The persistent data problem is establishing a data governance policy and practice that includes a well defined & articulated data model. At the moment, data seems to be all over the place.”

Stephen diFilipo, former CIO of University of Texas and MSOE University

Stephen diFilipoFormer CIO of University of Texas and MSOE University

Data Discovery

Finding data remains a top challenge for data experts everywhere. Accelerating the time it takes to find, understand, trust, and use data is another core focus of modern CIOs.

“First, ensure we know where all of it is. Then, catalog it and feed it into an environment which can provide business valuable information one can act on.”

Milos Topic, CIO for Grand Valley State University

Milos TopicCIO for Grand Valley State University

Data Access

Enabling access to data is high on the list of urgent data problems. Many CIOs are rethinking the lock-the-data-away approach and turning instead to data democratization.

“CIOs at every organization must stop the control of data access and allow full access. The CIO is not the gatekeeper!… You should throw that control mentality out the window. joint effort with the organization’s compliance team.”

David Chou, CIO for Harris Health System

David ChouCIO for Harris Health System

Data Quality

Urgent problems with data quality are ongoing. But what makes them urgent depends on the audience — and how they seek to use that data.

“Depends on the department. Data teams will talk about quality and inventory. Marketing will focus on clickstreams. End of the day, it’s all about the customer.”

Dennis Klemenz, CIO, Connex Credit Union

Dennis KlemenzCIO, Connex Credit Union

“Data accuracy, timely data, knowing how to use data, security of data. Basically, data everywhere but not a drop makes sense.”

Paige Francis, CTO, Alliance Support Company

Paige FrancisCTO, Alliance Support Company

“1) Spreadsheets, especially when they are operational and need updating by one person daily/weekly/monthly; 2) Integrating data across multiple systems; and 3) Getting data owners to drive data quality”

Isaac Sacolick, Former CIO

Isaac SacolickFormer CIO

“Especially in enterprises with different business lines, our primary focus is providing common data science tools + methodologies and standard repositories.”

Pedro Martinez Puig, Head of Americas Technology at Edenred

Pedro Martinez PuigHead of Americas Technology at Edenred


Solving these pain points requires aligning data and business strategies into a unified whole. An ideal outcome will result in, “data that provides clear consistent measures for our critical business initiatives,” reveals Carrie Shumaker, CIO of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “ Needs to be structured to allow easy trend lines over time,” she points out.

Data is a potent source of customer insights. Denis Klemenz, CIO of Connex Credit Union, argues that making data powerful is “about determining what your customer behaviors are and how those behaviors impact your business model,” he argues.

Join us at Data Dialogs

The CIOs have spoken! Urgent data problems are typically connected to the governance of data. But how do you lead a governance program that doesn’t end in failure?

You heed advice from the experts. Join us to hear such expert advice live at Govern Your Data, Empower Your People: A Data Dialogs Miniseries.

Join us for actionable tips from governance leaders who have seen it all.

Alternatively, join a weekly live demo and learn how Alation’s Active Data Governance can help your data governance leaders drive initiatives and grow your business.

  • The CIO’s Role in Data
  • Urgent Problems
  • Impacts
  • Join us at Data Dialogs
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