What’s an effective state CDO do? New playbook has answers

Along with defining the role of the chief data officer, Deloitte's CDO Playbook 2023 provides data officers with new strategies.
(Daniel Leal / AFP via Getty Images)

Deloitte this week released its CDO Playbook 2023, which one of its authors said aims to provide state chief data officers with an “actionable data strategy” and bring clarity and focus to what it means to serve as a top data official as the role continues to evolve.

State chief data officers have become a staple in executive IT offices over the last several years, and while the nascence of the role provides some freedom for data officials to chart their own paths — that lack of focus can be stifling, said Adita Karkera, an author of the playbook and the former deputy CDO of Arkansas.

Karkera told StateScoop that she’s watched much of what it means to be a data officer change since she built out the role in Arkansas and the passage of the federal Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which precipitated the need for governments to install CDOs. But the growing function of data in everyday life is also driving the need for more thoughtful strategies, she said.

“I think there was some focus on leveraging data earlier, but I think the increased focus on using data today has been a huge change in the past six years,” Karkera said. “I mean, just look around us. We’ve seen, really, an exponential increase in the volume of data just surround us with all the emerging tech that we see being used. Whether it’s smart watches, whether it’s facial recognition, biometrics scans, car dashboards — I mean, we’re creating data at every intersection of our life.”


And especially as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence are built into organizational structures, Karkera said, governments are taking stronger roles in the collection, curation and use of that data, which can create insights that lead to better business outcomes. But she noted that to drive better outcomes, many CDOs she spoke with while creating the playbook said there was a challenging ambiguity around the role.

“I still continue to hear the CDOs not being clear on what falls under their portfolio and what doesn’t, and having some of those challenges around identifying what exactly they’re supposed to deliver,” she said. “And what are key success factors is something that I hear a lot.”

In addition to laying out CDO job functions, such as planning an organization’s strategic vision and designing the journey to achieve it, Karkera said she hopes the playbook will provide data officials with an “actionable data strategy” that addresses some of those issues.

One strategy included in the playbook is building data literacy programs within departments that are aligned with strategic goals, and to take a holistic approach to enhancing data fluency. The playbook says organizations should figure out what data knowledge, skills and abilities are required for each role, create opportunities for the workforce to learn from and use data and reinforce and incentivize the use of data.

Karkera said that holistic approach is needed to catalyze the culture shift that’ll be needed for organizations to keep up with rapid changes in data tools and technologies.


“We’re also continuing to see culture being a huge challenge and a huge barrier across government organizations. And it really comes up in almost all of my conversations with the CDOs,” Karkera said. “Literacy is often just understood as, are you able to read and write with data? Well, it’s so much more, right? It’s about being able to understand comprehend, and then apply data to get actionable insights out of it.”

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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