The Human-Centric CDO: 3 Key Takeaways from the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit 2023 in London

By Heidi Vasconi

Published on June 9, 2023

We were thrilled to attend Gartner Data and Analytics Summit 2023, on May 22–24 in London. D&A leaders from around the world gathered to discuss and find ways to overcome the latest challenges through strategies and innovations backed by data, analytics, and data science. The observations comprised a mix of classic (the power of people, data quality), recent (architectures such as fabric and mesh), and emerging (AI). Here are a few of the major takeaways that surfaced from the event.

Keynote: How D&A leaders can deliver tangible value

In “Lead for Purpose. Connect With Trust. Make an Impact,” Pieter den Hamer, VP of AI, Gartner, set the tone for the event. Den Hamer identified the main roadblocks to D&A success as human-related, not tech-related. These include skills shortages, lack of business engagement, difficulty accepting change and poor data literacy throughout the organization. How can leaders respond? Alleviating these challenges comes down to fostering culture and “speaking the language of business.” Culture makes everyone at the organization understand the value of data, whereas the language of business aligns D&A initiatives with business goals 

Gartner Agenda Survey for 2023

Highlight 1: Strategies to be a successful CDO/CDAO

Multiple presentations focused on strategies for being a successful business leader and CDO/CDAO. It’s a data and analytics leadership role, but the CDO/CDAO must always remember to put people first, both in terms of how you build your team (as it’s not just tools but a diverse group of people and skills — including soft skills) and how you communicate (and articulate) the value of your AI initiatives.

  • This ties into the keynote, stressing that a CDO or CDAO goals must be aligned with the corporate strategy and vision.

  • Data and analytics fuels success, but remember it’s the business stakeholder who is the hero in the company’s success story, and you must empower them with the data and insights they need to make the right decisions.

  • To maintain the proper balance between centralization and decentralization, follow Gartner’s seven principles of data management

7 Principles of Data Management

Highlight 2: The AI impact

AI is increasingly (and unstoppingly) becoming a key component of D&A strategy and will continue to transform from tool to teammate. Rita Sallam, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner, listed the 10 trends for D&A in 2023. Two of them are about AI, and, interestingly, the two AI trends Sallam highlighted present a yin and yang: “Emergent AI” and “Managing Your Artificial Intelligence (AI) Risk” She notes that “Emergent AI enables organizations to apply AI in situations where it is not feasible today, making AI ever more pervasive and valuable” — but at the same time, “Not every decision can or should be automated. Efforts to drive decision automation without considering the human role in decisions will result in a data-driven organization without conscience or consistent purpose.” While AI foundational models such as ChatGPT offer a level of automated creativity previously unseen — “AI makes stuff, it doesn’t just read or hear or look at stuff,” observed Whit Andrews, Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst — we’re cautioned that such models can deliver unacceptable results due to their black-box nature.

Highlight 3: A dozen data quality directives

A range of speakers and thought leaders declared that improving data quality (DQ) is the way to avoid high costs and deliver sustainable value After all, “Data quality issues cost a lot,” said Jason Medd, Director Analyst at Gartner (likely to the surprise of no one). However, these issues can be easily resolved if you build a DQ program that is ongoing and continuous, not one-and-done. What does that program look like? One presentation shared 12 actions organized into four categories, with a combination of tools, process, and people, along with this sage advice:

  • Focus on the Right Things to Set Strong Foundations

  • Apply Data Quality Accountability

  • Establish “Fit for Purpose” Data Quality

  • Integrate Data Quality into Corporate Culture

Gartner Key Issues


Although there’s an obvious “D” in “CDO/CDAO,” focusing solely on data will make that “D” stand for “doomed.” That’s not irony, that’s the importance of incorporating data culture as a key foundation of your organization. Data culture can sound like a soft skill, but becoming truly data-driven requires company-wide support, buy-in, and execution. Unfortunately, there is no “data culture platform,” per se. Just as you can’t pull a report without data, you can’t just make data culture happen like the Big Bang. As many of the speakers at Gartner D&A Summit explained, data culture starts with a foundation of making data accessible, understandable, trusted, and usable for both data experts and non-expert stakeholders. Fortunately, Alation can provide that foundation. Learn more about how data governance can provide that foundation in the white paper, Data Governance Is Valuable: Moving to an Offensive Strategy.

  • Keynote: How D&A leaders can deliver tangible value
  • Highlight 1: Strategies to be a successful CDO/CDAO
  • Highlight 2: The AI impact
  • Highlight 3: A dozen data quality directives
  • Conclusion
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