3 acronyms that spell confusion for the data industry

David Reed, director of research and editor-in-chief, DataIQ

Acronyms are supposed to save time. Where lengthy terminology might get in the way of communication, they are a quick sign post of common knowledge. But only if there is a genuinely shared agreement about what the short version stands for or represents. Here are three examples that are currently causing confusion around the data industry.

DPO - Data protection officer is not the problem with this three letter acronym (TLA). Instead, it is the lack of agreement about what the role actually entails, especially in the wake of GDPR. Up to now, DPO has been a relatively low-key position which only gets called into action when (rare) subject access requests turn up. Most DPOs are just a name (and sometime not even an actual person) somewhere in the privacy policy.

Post-GDPR, this officer is supposed to be much more like a guardian of the data universe. Independent, properly resourced, legally-trained (or with relevant domain knowledge) and as hard to sack as German union member. It is the DPO who is meant to stand up to the business - at the very highest level if needs be - when it wants to do something which is not compliant.

Yet a DataIQ colleague who recently attended a DPO conference reported that, not only did the dozen individuals in a workshop not share a view of their current role, but also that 11 of them were patently unaware of GDPR and what it is supposed to mean for their position. When the potential deluge of SARs starts to arrive in the wake of a forthcoming consumer awareness campaign by the European Commission, they and their organisations seem likely to get badly caught out.

CDO - News that the London mayor is looking to appoint a CDO should have resonated strongly in the data industry. Except that it is a chief digital officer, not a chief data officer who will be moving into city hall. A dispute over the meaning of a TLA might not seem important, except that it serves to deepen the already existing confusion over the role of the data version - and could end up in a power struggle.

CDOs (data-style) are on a journey out of the back office data governance space and into the boardroom, powered by advanced analytics and their transformational power. This is a huge shift and a rapid evolution of a job that only came into existence in 2004. 

CDOs (digital flavour) are a grab bag of everything that organisations are doing online and mobile. They are one part ecommerce, one part social media, one part digital marketing and no parts data. Yet the scale of spending on digital transformations means the digital CDO could outflank their data colleague, who might end up reporting into them. This is entirely the wrong way round - data and analytics should have the same status as cash at the boardroom. Digital activities will come and go, but there will always be the common element of data to power them.

PIMS - Updating a standard for data protection, as BSI has just done with 10012:2017, is a good thing. Except that it has immediately made an error by annexing this acronym. Personal information management systems (as it describes them) are just an unnecessary rebranding of data warehouses and single customer views. 

The seminal book “Right Side Up” was published by Alan Mitchell all the way back in 2001 and set out what rapidly established itself as a key concept - personal information management services. This is what PIMS really stands for and sits at the heart of the Me2B economy on the consumer side of data protection. By getting this wrong - its version of the acronym only dates back to 2009-  BSI has not met its usual standards.



Please note that blogs are the sole view of the author and that they are not neccesarily the view of IQ ddg Ltd and should not be interpreted as advice. Please read our full disclaimer

Director of research and editor-in-chief, DataIQ
An expert commentator on all things data, David has been editor of DataIQ since its inception in 2011.

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