APAC CDOs struggle to balance innovation and governance

APAC CDOs struggle to balance innovation and governance

Public sector Chief Data Officers (CDOs) in key Asia Pacific (APAC) markets are currently prioritizing governance, security and compliance amid the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape, highlighting a sense of caution and reduced focus on innovation in data analytics, according to new research from Qlik.

A shift in traditional reporting structures is driving this trend, with over half (55%) of data executives now reporting through a security, risk, or compliance channel rather than a technology organizational lead, according to research titled “Driving Data in the APAC Public Sector: Balancing Governance and Innovation”.

Just 21% of data executives operated under similar reporting channels in 2021. Meanwhile, a third of public sector agencies (33%) also now use a governance title for their senior data executives – more than twice the number (15%) in 2021.

Allocating more resources to governance

The report also shows how governance has become fundamental to shaping strategy. Many public sector organizations are now allocating more resources to governance than capability, mirroring a default view across the sector that data is a ‘risk to be managed’ rather than an ‘opportunity to be exploited.’ In this climate, CDOs are more likely to possess governance activity capabilities (77%) instead of analytics (63%) or data literacy (57%).

When asked about their priorities for the next year, many data leaders ranked strategizing, maturity assessments, inventories, and governance boards above more innovation-focused initiatives, such as deploying analytics tools, decommissioning old technologies or publishing open datasets.

The research also demonstrates the drive to strengthen compliance practices in recent years. Over 90% of organizations reported having governance frameworks in place in 2023, which marks a significant increase compared to 2021, when only 38% reported having a governance body.

Commissioned by Qlik and conducted independently by Omdia, the study presents the findings of a survey of 326 senior data executives within the public sectors of Australia, India, and Singapore, revealing how the CDO’s role and business strategies are evolving across government organizations.

Rising appreciation for CDOs

Promisingly, the findings also show rising appreciation for the expanding roles and responsibilities of CDOs in today’s increasingly regulated climate. Around 78% now say they clearly understand the role – including its focus on compliance and governance – and how to deliver against it, compared to only 55% in 2021.

However, according to the research, this level of appreciation does not necessarily extend to entire organizations. While over 90% of surveyed public sector organizations reported having a well-defined data strategy with clearly defined roles and objectives, more than half (54%) admitted that their strategy is not widely understood, hindering implementation.

The report is available for download here.