Federal Reserve calls for chief data officer

The proposed new position would add to the growing ranks of agency CDOs as feds seek the expertise to manage big data.

bar chart made of $100

The Federal Reserve wants a chief data officer to govern the system's growing quantity of data. (Stock image)

The rapid growth of government information is reshaping not only the tools agencies use to govern their data, but the people, too.

In a newly released strategic plan, the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve System calls for establishing a new Office of the Chief Data Officer to govern and manage the "growing quantity of data" produced and used by the central bank of the United States.

"As the Board's mandate has expanded in the wake of the financial crisis and the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, so has the need for data to meet the breadth and depth of analytical issues that staff are now addressing," the strategy reads.

Requests for comment to the Federal Reserve were not returned by press time, but the change in standards is not surprising given the dialogue shaping up since "big data" become an IT buzzword.

In fact, several agencies now employ CDOs to help govern data. The Federal Communications Commission alone has 10 across its offices and bureaus after becoming the first federal agency to install a CDO in 2010.

In October 2012, TechAmerica released a report calling for a CDO in each agency, suggesting big data's successes hinges as much on the human element as on the technology involved.

Data scientists, too, are expected to be in demand over the coming years, yet the CDO – another executive position with management duties in agencies already abundant with "Chief Something-or-Others" – does generate a bit of resistance from industry insiders.

While some feel it is a natural development in the organizational structure, others like Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, feel the position is duplicative.

"[A] good CIO or CTO should already be doing what a CDO would be hired to do," Castro told FCW in October. "Data and technology are intimately linked, and strategies should be developed around both of them together."

Whichever side of the fence one falls on, the growth of information is changing the way private sector companies and public sector agencies manage data. The Federal Reserve's strategy, heavily anchored by broad data governance policies and specific duties charged to a CDO, makes clear that data is not just content collected or generated by its servers anymore – it's vital to its investment decisions.

"The Board and the System now require a data governance and management structure that supports a growing quantity of data and an increased need to share data more broadly while ensuring the operational flexibility required by the Board's data users," the policy reads. "The success of the Board's strategy concerning financial system stability and supervisory strategy depends on proper data management. Implementing a data governance framework will be an important complement to the Board's investment in enhanced research capability. Effective and efficient data management will enhance staff's ability to obtain, interpret, and analyze the large volume of data that new supervisory responsibilities will require."