“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”― Mahatma Gandhi

It’s 12:30am – again. I’m getting too old to pull these 18 hour days. But it’s been a labor of love these last 6 months, pulling together a program here in Palo Alto for chief data officers . It all culminates on September 17th in Palo Alto: the MIT Chief Data Officer Forum West.

I’m deeply inspired by the experiences our speakers will share about how Big Data and Internet of Things-enabled initiatives are being used to make the world a better place. Our speakers in the morning include Peter Norvig from Google, Rich Wang and Yang Lee from MIT, Monica Martinez Canales from Intel, Dr. Mark Wright from Stanford School of Medicine, and Kip Compton from Cisco. They will talk about initiatives based on using data in innovative ways —  not only helping organizations operate and compete better, but enabling them to tackle huge life changing issues like personalized medicine, how the drought affects the social fabric in agricultural communities, to empowering citizens of developing countries through access to the internet. I feel very grateful for their time and contribution of their expertise.

The afternoon agenda is structured as breakouts to get into thoughtful, maybe even provocative, discussions on how to build world-class teams in a Big Data world, the structural organization of the office of the CDO, how CDOs can be do’ers instead of just strategists, and assessing readiness for Big Data initiatives. Again, I’m grateful for our moderators, including Joseph Bugajski, managing VP of Gartner Research, Ravi Mikkelsen, CEO of jobFig, Mark Johnson, CEO of Gavroshe, and Imran Siddiqi, senior principal at SAP.

The CDO role is still in its infancy with most organizations but the problems have been there for a long time. These CDO’s are  characterized by an ability to span business units and functions, leap political boundaries in a single bound, and bravely pioneer the wild frontiers of technology like Big Data and Internet of Things. It is with MIT along with some friends of data, who are diligently working to increase the numbers of CDOs as well as elevate their status within organizations.

Why all this effort for the CDO? A recent article in MIS Quarterly Executive by the MIT team reveals that organizations with a top executive responsible for data management perform better than those who do not.

Then I read a statistic that only 0.5 percent of all data is ever analyzed in the blog post Big Data: Creating the Power to Move Heaven and Earth in the MIT Technology Review by my esteemed colleague Manju Bansal.

Put these factors together: the amazing things that can be achieved by applying the newest technology and approaches on vast and varied data, the underutilization of data, and the need for a c-level data champion, I am convinced that the CDO is the right cause. So if the MIT CDO Forum West on Sept 17th helps a CDO move the needle, then my sleep is truly a modest contribution.

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