Following the successes of the 16th MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium (MIT CDOIQ) in July in Cambridge, MA, and the inaugural CDOIQ European Symposium in September in Lausanne, Switzerland, the 3rd annual CDO Latin America (LATAM) Summit was held  November 9-10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This year’s event attracted an audience of 868 data and analytics executives, comprising 158 in-person attendees, plus 710 remote participants.  

This year’s CDO LATAM Summit was designed to foster networking among the audience, with open time between presentation topics and a complimentary invitation-only dinner hosted for the in-person attendees November 9. 

The event is organized and hosted by CDO LATAM, a non-profit organization founded in 2019 in Lima, Peru with the purpose of fostering the strategic use of data and analytics across Latin America. The CDO LATAM Summit, the organization's flagship event, brings together data and analytics leaders – CDOs, CDAOs, CAOs – comprising a diverse community of nations, including Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. The inaugural CDO LATAM SUMMIT was hosted in Lima, Peru, in 2019.  

Following two successful virtual summits held during the pandemic, data and analytics executives gathered this year in Buenos Aires for a hybrid event that allowed for remote participation. The opening dinner gathering provided an opportunity for the CDO and CDAO participants to meet in person, learn from one another, and partake in Argentina’s renowned grill cuisine, as CDO LATAM President Iván Herrero welcomed participants.  

Herrero is the CDO of Grupo Intercorp, a large Peruvian financial services and diversified services business. He also serves as a member of the Global Editorial Board of CDO Magazine and is the MIT CDOIQ Country CDO Ambassador for Peru.  

In his opening remarks, Herrero noted that organizing an event like CDO LATAM on a remote basis has been a huge challenge. He continued, “It would have been much easier for us to host the event in Peru, but we wanted to bring the summit closer to all the Latin American data and analytics community. So, we decided that CDO LATAM will be rotating among the key cities of the region.” 

Herrero concluded, “Our aim is to inspire both the current and the next generation of leaders in data and analytics, breaking the gender gap in these fields and positioning these capabilities as drivers for social and economic development. We have gained much traction during the last three years, but there is still a lot to do.”

The summit was organized into eight conference tracks containing one keynote and one panel each, featuring more than 40 data and analytics thought leaders discussing topics, including:

  • The role of the CDO.

  • Using data and analytics to drive better decisions in the public sector.

  • Applied analytics in banking.

  • Operating models to make companies data driven. When and how should data-mesh be deployed based on practical learnings.

  • Building a data-driven organization culture.

  • Maximizing the impact of data and analytics in the business.

  • Study of the adoption of data and analytics across Latin America.

  • How to use customer data to drive business growth.

  • The challenge of managing analytical talent.

  • The future of data and analytics: fostering financial inclusion in Latin America.

The Buenos Aires auditorium was the stage for this collective-learning event. Melisa Breda, Deputy Secretary of Evidence-based Public Policies at the Government of the City of Buenos Aires, highlighted the relevance of integrating people from the public sector in events like this:  “Data enables us to understand the present in order to build our future. But we do not build that future alone. That is why, in this CDO Latam Summit, we wanted to bring together different sectors of society. We reached out to representatives of civil society and invited, for the first time, stakeholders from the public sector. Because the design of new organizations and data-driven solutions is an invitation that is open to everyone.”

Reflecting on two days of learning from Latin American data and analytics leaders, Pablo Junco, Microsoft Senior Director of Data & AI Solutions, Latin America, summarized, “Governing our data is not optional anymore. We have to manage an ever-increasing amount of data, and break data silos and, at the same time, improve data agility while complying with complex and changing regulations. The challenge for CDOs is becoming harder to understand and harder to achieve. The average maturity level in data governance in Latin America is some years behind the USA or Europe, but the good news is that we can learn from what they are doing and become more efficient and effective while walking (running) along this way.”

Tito Neira, Chief Data Strategy Officer at ADL Digital Lab, noted, “Our vision is split into three strategic goals: transform the current business, build new digital businesses, and develop business ecosystems. There is a permanent discussion about where the CDO should be placed in the organization. For me it is clear: if the company wants to become truly mature in the use of data and make a strategic use of this asset, the CDO must report to the CEO.”

In conclusion, Ram Kumar, Chief Data and Analytics Officer for Cigna, expressed a key takeaway from this data and analytics leader event, remarking, “Data is the lifeblood of business. Today’s technology will become depreciated in the future. people come and go, processes will change. But data will remain. Data quality is always a people problem, not process or technology. A data-driven culture cannot be built from the bottom up. We have to change from requesting sponsorship from the C-suite to ensuring their accountability.”

When NewVantage Partners conducted its first annual data executive leadership survey back in 2012, only 12.0% of companies surveyed reported that they had appointed a Chief Data Officer. This year, the percentage has grown to 73.7%. It is, therefore, not at all surprising that Chief Data Officer gatherings like the CDO LATAM Summit are growing in popularity and reach.  

Participants at the CDO LATAM Summit are already looking forward to marking the progress to be made during the year ahead and reconvening for next year’s program. The momentum of the global CDO/CDAO community continues to build.   

Randy Bean is the author of “Fail Fast, Learn Faster: Lessons in Data-Driven Leadership in an Age of Disruption, Big Data, and AI.”  He is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and MIT Sloan Management Review, and The Wall Street Journal, and is Innovation Fellow, Data Strategy with Paris-based Wavestone (EPA: WAVE) and Founder/CEO of NewVantage Partners, acquired by Wavestone in December 2021.