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North Dakota Hires Its Second-Ever Chief Data Officer

Ravi Krishnan will become state chief data officer on Nov. 1. Among his key plans: spreading awareness of strong data governance practices to all agencies in the enterprise.

Ravi Krishnan
Courtesy of Ravi Krishnan
Ravi Krishnan will become North Dakota’s chief data officer (CDO) Nov. 1, bringing with him two decades of private-sector experience. He will be in charge of data management, data science and helping develop an applications suite for state agencies, according to a press release.

Krishnan will be the second person to hold the post, taking over from inaugural state CDO Dorman Bazzell, who also came from the private sector.

Bazzell’s tenure left a strong foundation to build on, Krishnan told Government Technology.

“I get to stand on his shoulders and take this to the next level,” Krishnan said.

Krishnan said his turn as CDO will involve taking a broader look at what counts as data management, addressing not only the data itself but also the applications that draw on that data and how those are developed and deployed.

“From a CDO perspective, the role by itself means many things to different people,” he said. “Part of my chapter here is going a little bit beyond just traditional data.”

Krishnan’s recent roles include serving as head of analytics and decisioning transformation at credit monitoring company TransUnion, head of enterprise data architecture and strategy at Discover Financial Services and as a consultant to entities in the U.S. and Canada.

When he assumes his new role at the state, Krishnan intends to reach beyond the IT Department and actively engage other agencies as well. That includes raising everyone’s awareness of how data can power better decision-making, as well as getting all departments involved in managing and securing their own data.

“The biggest thing for me is to bring awareness of how data can be used to solve problems creatively,” Krishnan said. “That’s a start that’s already been made at the state; I think we could do a lot more in that area.”

Krishan wants all agencies to have a comprehensive understanding of their data and its management, including knowing what they collect and how sensitive it is as well as who’s responsible for maintaining and safeguarding it.

He also wants to ensure that agencies have self-serve ways for accessing any data they need and are authorized to see, without their having to wait on IT to fetch it for them.

Charting how to reach these goals involves fully grasping where the state is starting from, and Krishnan said his first 100 days would involve studying the department’s existing data governance and management plans, to fully understand their nuances and details.

Making meaningful and lasting progress will require shifting the culture and business processes of an organization — something Krishnan said he’s had experience with through designing Discover’s data strategy. Discover is a large enterprise encompassing various smaller business units, similar to how a state government consists of many agencies, he said. In both cases, getting these smaller entities engaged is essential.

“We’ve got to make them [the suborganizations] partners in this journey,” Krishnan said. “That’s what brings about transformation. Otherwise, it’s just technology change. True transformation is business transformation, enabled by or powered by IT.”
Jule Pattison-Gordon is a staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.


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