IT Engineers and Technician discussing technical problem in server room with data connection visual effect .
Image: jamesteohart/Adobe Stock

The average salary for a chief data officer (CDO) in 2022 is $115,611. For many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), hiring a CDO is beyond their means, but they still need ways to address data management as they continue to digitize.

What approaches can companies take, if they can’t afford to hire a CDO?

1. Take stock of what you’ve got and where you are

The CDO function is designed to do three things: ensure data quality, ensure data security and governance, and ensure data optimization.

All of these functions have, to some degree, been done in IT. The catch is that many of the data management functions that companies now want have never really been formalized into job descriptions that assure they will receive the attention needed. There are also companies that historically haven’t paid much attention to their data, so much of their data can be inconsistent, broken and underutilized.

SEE: What is data management? Your guide to data management (TechRepublic)

Because of these factors, SMBs that want to focus on data stewardship and data management should first assess where they are. Do they have people in place who are already doing some of the data management and stewardship functions? If so, which functions are being covered and which are not? What state is their data in? Are there volumes of data that haven’t been used or stores of data that are inaccurate and exhibit poor data quality?

Once these areas have been assessed, an organization has an idea of what it needs in order to address data stewardship and management.

2. Who in the organization can work on data?

If the company has already concluded that it can’t hire a full-time CDO, the next best thing is to look at individuals in the company who have some of the skills or who have backgrounds and talents that would enable them to skill up quickly.

The first place to look is in the database group. The database administrator should be charged with oversight of the development of the entire corporate data architecture.

When an overall data architecture is in place, you have a structure that ensures all of your various data repositories and processes can interact with each other in enterprise-wide data exchanges and ensures you have the tools, such as APIs (application programming interfaces) and ETL (extract, transform, load), to facilitate integration. This also means eradicating stand-alone data silos that might exist within the company.

At a more junior level, a data analyst in the database group can vet data for quality, ensuring the data is accurate and consistent across systems.

The database group can work hand in hand with the IT security group to make sure all data is properly secured and that it meets corporate governance standards, even if the data is incoming from third-party vendors.

For data optimization, a strong business analyst can work alongside users and coordinate with the database group to see that data is leveraged across the enterprise. In addition, they can identity any pockets of data that remained dormant and that might be candidates for removal.

3. Make data optimization a primary goal of digitalization

When corporate digitalization efforts first started, the focus was on eliminating as many paper documents and manual processes as possible. Optimizing this digital data was a distant point on the roadmap.

Today, however, digitalization has matured and established itself in organizations. It’s time to prioritize data optimization and ensure every department within the company can get the data it wants.

“Information has become one of the most valuable assets of modern businesses, representing a new way that organizations create value for their customers and stakeholders,” stated CPAs Virginia Collins and Joel Lanz.

Companies without CDOs can focus their database, applications and security groups on optimizing data and communicate with their boards and CEOs through the CIO, and they can make progress in digital data optimization, even if they can’t afford CDOs.

Subscribe to the Data Insider Newsletter

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays

Subscribe to the Data Insider Newsletter

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays