City of Chicago: a pioneer of the Chief Data Officer (CDO)

The idea of a smart city is founded on the collection and analysis of huge amounts of data. Insights distilled from this “big data” set help to identify cross-functional efficiencies, opportunities for automation and can predict potential problems.  It enables municipal leaders to make better-informed decisions and to save money by eliminating inefficiencies and introducing automation.  Citizens get useful real-time information and benefit from a city services infrastructure that can dynamically adapt to their needs.

The problem is that it is a lot easier to tell this story than to actually make it happen.  At the heart of the challenge is the need for city authorities to embrace the idea of data-driven government.  This central challenge often gets overlooked in favour of familiar discussions over technology options, which is why it is great to see a new study by Jane Wiseman of the Civic Analytics Network at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

In “Lessons from Leading CDOs: A Framework for Better Civic Analytics”, the emerging role of the CDO is explored in detail. It includes:

  • Organisational issues – who the  CDO should report to
  • The relationship with the Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • The CDO’s mission, strategic framework and operating models
  • Building the team and the implementation roadmap
  • Working with partners
  • Project identification and prioritisation
  • Data analytics governance.

The cities of Chicago and New York pioneered the role of Chief Data Officer. Momentum is building, with State, county, and city executives naming a new CDO almost every month in the second half of 2016. But data-driven executive leadership in government is still relatively new, with just over a dozen cities and even fewer states having so far appointed a CDO.

The best aspect of this report is that every section is reinforced with best practice examples and advice from the field.  As more cities appoint CDO’s to navigate their path to becoming a successful smart city, groups like the Civil Analytics Network, providing peer support and the sharing of best practices, could prove to be an invaluable catalyst for smart city adoption.

You can download the full report, read Jane Wiseman’s supporting article “Lessons learned from leading CDOs” and find out more about the Civil Analytics Network here.