DATAx presents: How to pick the right vendor as a CDO

In the lead up to this year's DATAx New York festival, we present the first of a three-part series of conversations we had with Bharti Rai, head of data and digital innovation at Bayer, regarding the everyday challenges facing CDOs today


As numerous industries look to rely on data to drive its decision-making, so the sheer quantity of data available continues to grow, meaning CDOs are having to become one of the most agile and dynamic leaders within a company. Potentially game-changing decisions need to be made regularly, sometimes with little historical data to fall back on.

To explore some of the difficult choices facing modern CDOs, DATAx had a series of conversations with Bharti Rai regarding her challenges as head of data and digital innovation for pharma giant Bayer.

Our first conversation revolved around Rai's views on how CDOs should handle the delicate and sometimes confusing task of choosing vendors:

The life sciences industry has been just as caught up as any of their counterparts with the data and digital revolution many of us have been experiencing. However, it is time that a number of those in the top leadership within this sector and others begin trying harder to examine investment opportunities and focus on long-term digital plans instead of simply paying lip-service to the cause.

While everyone intellectually agrees that their company should be driven by data and analytics, there is an accompanying cultural revolution that still needs to take place through the various levels and functions of firms everywhere. The primary focus so far has been to transform data and analytics groups. However, real change is also needed through marketing and sales departments too, otherwise different parts of the organization will start to speak different languages.

Culturally, it is down to business leaders to start viewing data as more than a defense mechanism and begin really using it to drive marketing decisions and sales deployment. Even today, leaders who typically rise tend to be rooted in traditional sales and marketing and lack the experience needed to build data and analytics operations at scale.

Right now, there is a tendency to be wowed by every new vendor offering services with superb short-term value. But a year in, that gloss begins to fade and those once shiny new services do not look as appealing as they once did, especially once you start adding up the accumulated price tag.

Firms often find themselves launching a number of disjointed pilots which, despite their initial momentum and supposed attainment of "value creation", still leave them lacking a sustainable, repeatable data and analytics foundation. An organization may be left with multiple vendors on their payroll, without a coherent strategy or architecture, all under the promise of quick insights.

Compounding those issues, I also believe there is an overload of data in most companies. There is a tendency to revert to the thinking that simply acquiring more data will solve every new business question. The reality is, organizations need to first ensure they are using the data they have available and make sure they have the technical infrastructure and advanced analytics skillsets (as well as capacity) to make sense of the vast amounts of already purchased data.

The vendor landscape has never been more exciting. I would bucket the current vendor landscape into the following categories: Selling data only; data and software-as-a-service; software-as-a-service (but the company brings their own purchased data); software-and-analytics-as-a-service; analytics-as-service; and various combinations of them all.

Within each of these categories, there are hundreds of vendor options with more being established every day. Hence, the choice of which one of these vendors is right for your enterprise depends on the maturity of the technical foundation in-house, the budgets available to purchase a wide variety of datasets and the firm's urgency for these insights. A smattering of short-term solutions should also be chosen as long-term models, skillsets and capacity are established in tandem.

Bharti Rai will be on a panel on Day One of the Chief Data Officer Summit, part of DATAx New York, taking place on December 12–13. To attend and hear more great insights from other CDOs from some of the biggest and most influential organizations, register here today.

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