Clarifying the role of public sector CDOs in APAC

Thursday, 22 April, 2021

Clarifying the role of public sector CDOs in APAC

Asia–Pacific (APAC) public sector organisations have yet to develop a clear understanding of the importance of data and the emerging role of the chief data officer (CDO) to the organisation, according to a report by Qlik and Omdia.

The report found that 47% of APAC CDOs feel their roles lack clarity in job definition, job execution or both. The report also revealed that 75% of CDOs regret not having invested more in data-driven initiatives before the COVID-19 pandemic, which could impact their ability to use technology to develop better citizen services like public health.

The ‘Emergence of the Public Sector Chief Data Officer in the APAC’ report analyses the state of the public sector CDO community in APAC, as governments adjust to a landscape disrupted by the pandemic and digital transformation. The report surveyed 103 senior public sector data executives across Australia and New Zealand, India and Singapore, revealing the concerns, challenges and priorities of these CDOs.

The report found that only 44% of APAC organisations rely on data insights when making mission-critical decisions, while 62% of public sector organisations have yet to establish a data governance body, despite proof that such a body can build management support and broader awareness of the value of data in decision-making. Almost two-thirds (62%) of APAC CDOs felt that leadership support is crucial to help them perform in their role.

Alongside organisational support, CDOs cited analytics and business intelligence technology as the top resourcing priority (73%) to enable data use within their organisations. CDOs had technical and strategic concerns for implementing data technology, such as integrating data, finding the right technology partner and upskilling public sector workers.

Data science (50%) and data policy (49%) were the most sought-after skills among public sector organisations. The CDOs surveyed also expressed the need for establishing a corporate culture of using data to support decisions (71%) and a more data-literate workforce (68%).

As public sector organisations in APAC reposition themselves beyond COVID-19, data initiatives are forecast to become more strategic and outcome-focused. Key priorities include improving data quality (51%), introducing new technologies (49%) and achieving a data strategy with a one-year action plan (42%).

Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President (APAC) at Qlik, noted that public sector CDOs in APAC need to help their organisations understand the value of data and create a data-literate culture that enables employees to act on it.

“CDOs don’t have to go on this journey on their own. There’s a multitude of resources from the community to help public sector agencies, executives and staff get started. At the same time, technology partners can consult on the most effective data strategy to inform decision-making. APAC public sector CDOs have a real chance to apply the lessons learnt during COVID-19 to rethink how to serve citizens in new ways, using data as the foundation for innovation,” said Thomas.

The public sector CDO is an emerging role within APAC organisations; though these executives have prior experience in the broad government sector, they are relatively new to the CDO function, with 57% of CDOs having less than two years of experience in that role.

Another Qlik study found that US public sector organisations are more advanced in developing strategies to establish a framework and standards for cross-agency data sharing, improving the efficiency of data collection and secure sharing of protected data. The report found that 71% of US public sector organisations see data as a priority, as opposed to 36% in APAC.

Kevin Noonan, Emeritus Chief Analyst at Omdia, noted that there is a pressing need to reassess the public sector organisation’s technology investment. Noonan added that this will enable a suitable strategy to meet emerging agility and innovation requirements.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been a watershed for CDOs in APAC, prompting governments in Asia to more efficiently use data insights to create better citizen services around public health, welfare and taxation. However, technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Leaders must also better define and enable the CDO role to realise data-driven decision-making,” said Noonan.

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