A majority of U.S. federal agencies with a chief data officer (CDO) say these executives are making a positive impact on organizations’ big data and analytics efforts, according to a new report from MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT.

Of the 150 agency IT managers surveyed online in September and October 2016, 81% of those with a CDO said they are making a positive impact, and 93% of those without a CDO said having one would positively impact the agency.

The study shows that 69% of Federal agencies with a CDO are more likely to successfully manage big data than those without (40%).

Almost all (92%) said their agency uses big data in some form, yet a majority (58%) would grade their agency’s data management strategy a C or below. Their top challenges include the ability to convert data into actionable intelligence, govern data, and centralize data storage.

Many agencies without a CDO (67%) said they are in desperate need of leadership around big data and analytics efforts. In addition to successfully managing big data, agencies with CDOs are also more likely to successfully leverage big data for decision making (61%) versus 28% of those without a CDO.

“Agencies need these data trailblazers as the volume of structured and unstructured data continues to explode,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. “Once you cut through the noise, properly managing data can be the key to agency success in other arenas, from cyber security to customer experience. Agencies are in dire need of a new data playbook.”

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