(US & Canada) | A CDO Needs to Be a Strategist and an Entrepreneur — Interac Corp. VP Head of Data Analytics and Fraud

Palash Thakur, VP, Head of Data Analytics and Fraud at Interac Corp., speaks with Nazar Labunets, Product Marketing Manager, Ataccama, in a video interview about the evolution of the CDO role, what a CDO should focus on while executing data analytics strategies, why the role is misunderstood, and how to attract and retain the right talent.

Interac is a Canadian interbank network that links financial institutions and other enterprises to exchange electronic financial transactions.

Thakur begins by stating that his role at Interac Corp. spans all data and analytics functions and fraud analytics or operations functions. When asked about the evolution of the CDO role over the years, he affirms that it has changed significantly. While some aspects remain unchanged, there have been new accountabilities in the role, and it can no longer be described as homogeneous.

Delving further, Thakur says that earlier the role was a defense, trust, or compliance-focused function. Fast forward to today, and the role is balanced, as it not only focuses on the defense side but also prioritizes the offense aspect. The offensive strategies include executing value-driven use cases for business growth focused on data monetization and data democratization.

However, what the role should be about varies from organization to organization. According to Thakur, the CDO's data analytics strategy should focus on the following three aspects:

  1. Driving a data-first culture across all organizational levels and weaving data analytics into the fabric of the organization. This includes building the right skills and data literacy level of business users.

  2. Building core data analytic capabilities around controls, processes, technology and tooling, user enablement, opportunity management, and business engagement models.

  3. Creating a winning proposition with organizational data and utilizing the power of analytics, machine learning, and generative AI technologies. This could aid in internal business decision-making and create data assets and products for monetization.

Summing it up, Thakur says that the CDO position requires a multifaceted person who is well-versed in business strategy, technology, and data. They should also have financial acumen and knowledge of architecture, technologies, and tooling that enable a data and analytics function to drive the business. CDO needs to be a strategist and an entrepreneur, he adds.

Commenting on why the CDO role is misunderstood, Thakur says that it stems from the challenges, which again vary depending on organizational culture and business model. He lists three core challenges.

The first key challenge lies in organizational maturity, says Thakur. Not all organizations understand the value driven by data analytics and the patience required to see through the benefits.

The biggest impediment to organizational maturity is understanding the data and analytics outcomes, as some are tangible while others are unquantifiable, he notes. Thus, the core capabilities need justification and re-education to stay relevant to the need to invest in them.

Another aspect related to organizational maturity and the role being misunderstood lies in the changing scope of the CDO role, from centralized to decentralized to federated, says Thakur.  

The second challenge arises from balancing offense and defense priorities. He opines that while both sets are equally critical to driving data transformation, a CDO faces conundrums and needs to focus on foundational issues.

Thakur believes that CDOs need to set the right expectations, convince on the journey, and show small wins along the way to be successful.

The third challenge for the CDO role and a data analytics organization is finding and retaining top talent. All of these challenges lead to misunderstandings of the CDO role at times.

Furthermore, Thakur states that a successful CDO function will attract the right talent. He continues that being intentional in implementing strategies and outcome-driven adds to the success factor of a data analytics organization.

Thereafter, Thakur affirms that organizations must prioritize understanding business strategy and delivering key business outcomes. Consistently achieving those outcomes will also amplify the organizational brand, both internally and externally, which helps acquire the right talent.

In conclusion, he stresses the story-telling aspect and the type of work an organization does to maximize outreach among educational institutions and job fairs that bring in talent.

CDO Magazine appreciates Palash Thakur for sharing his insights with our global community.

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