Celebrating the 16th Annual MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium: Back Together Again

Celebrating the 16th Annual MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium: Back Together Again

How far we’ve come. It seems like it was only yesterday that the first MIT Chief Data Officer Information Quality Symposium (MIT CDOIQ) was held on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. Of course, the symposium had not yet added CDO to its name, and the focus in its earliest days was mostly on information quality.  

Very few organizations had named Chief Data Officers at that time. It was not until the wake of the 2008/2009 financial crisis that major banks in particular led the way in formally establishing the role. By 2012, the role still had limited adoption, with just 12.0% of Fortune 1000 organizations having named a CDO, as reported in NewVantage Partners’ annual executive survey.  

Times change, and by 2022, and the 16th edition of the MIT CDOIQ Symposium, 73.7% of organizations have reported appointment of a CDO, with many into their third, fourth or fifth incumbent as the role evolved. It should then come as no surprise that the 2022 edition of MIT CDOIQ was the largest ever, with 2,855 total registrations, comprised of 634 on-site registrants and 2,221 virtual registrants representing 63 countries and 1,286 companies, including 1,218 executives with the title of Chief Data Officer. 

It has now been three years since CDO Magazine was launched at the 2019 MIT Chief Data Officer Information Quality Symposium. At that time, CDO Magazine publisher Steve Wanamaker stood on the stage with Dr. Richard Wang, Mark Johnson and Robert Lutton, casting a vision for the publication and asking leaders to support the magazine. Today, with the help and support of the MIT CDOIQ community, CDO Magazine reaches an audience of 350,000 executives each year, representing 176 countries.  

After a two-year hiatus as an in-person event due to COVID, it was wonderful to re-engage in person with so many committed industry data leaders. For me, it was a personal privilege to again host the Chief Data Officer panel discussion. This represents the ninth time I have organized and moderated the panel. Participants have included CDOs representing a diverse group of companies, including American Express, Bank of America, Cigna, CVS Health, Eli Lilly, General Electric, General Motors, JP Morgan, Mastercard, Morgan Stanley, Prudential, TIAA, USAA, and Walmart. I was honored to host CDOs representing the Mayo Clinic, Best Buy, State Farm, and Scotia Bank this year.

DeWayne Griffin, Chief Data Officer at State Farm and an MIT CDO panel participant, summarized his experience at the MIT Symposium as "an amazing week, with so many great takeaways.” Most notable from his perspective was the notion of “data as a product.” Griffin comments, “The main takeaway for me is that ‘data as a product’ will revolutionize the data space. There are no silver bullets, but the key is this idea that the value of data is most driven from its consumption mindset – that is, thinking about ways we turn data into information into insights that feed decision making.”

Data leadership has come a long way since the first MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium 16 years ago. Having experienced the initial growing pains, organizations are making the long-term commitments to deliver business outcomes. Schnucks Chief Data and Deputy Chief Information Officer Tom Henry expresses it well: “Like no other year, the 2022 symposium demonstrated how much the CDO’s role has evolved. Data leaders are no longer focused only on managing the technical aspects of their company’s data ecosystem but also, and more importantly, driving organizational strategies and delivering business value.”

Vanguard Chief Data Analytics Officer Ryan Swann echoes Henry’s comments, adding, “As the CDO/CDAO space continues to evolve, our senior leaders must continue to grow and lead global organizations to drive business outcomes and reduce risk with data. The MIT CDOIQ Symposium helps us do this by providing a variety of information/resources on multiple levels — strategic, tactical, innovative, and collaborative.”

Mayo Clinic Chief Data and Analytics Officer Ajai Sehgal confirms his colleagues’ perspectives: “I really enjoyed being part of the panel at the MIT CDOIQ Symposium. Having the opportunity to share experiences with colleagues in similar roles, even if in different industries, made it clear that we are far from alone with respect to the challenges of laying the data foundation for the future.” This opportunity of learning from peers across many industries distinguishes the MIT CDOIQ Symposium as an instructive learning event.  

The coming years will test the ongoing industry commitment to the CDO function. Industry bodies like the MIT CDOIQ Symposium will continue to help data executives learn from one another and benefit from these learnings, while helping each other avoid the pitfalls along the way. We look forward to celebrating the 20th MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium and two decades of progress in just a few years. As data professionals, the journey continues. 

About the Author

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, MIT Sloan Management Review, and The Wall Street Journal, and Founder and CEO of NewVantage Partners, a strategic advisory and management consulting firm he founded in 2001. The firm was acquired by Wavestone, a Paris-based global consultancy in December 2021.  

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