CDO as business development: Some notes from experience

Luke Fretwell posted an interesting article on the role CDO has as a business development officer:

If I was a Chief Data Officer [...] I would also proactively reach out to these companies to find out what data they’re interested in that government might be able to provide. This could help determine data release schedule/priority or expose low-hanging fruit opportunities and leverage quick wins. Having an established demand also makes it easier to convince internal stakeholders of the value and gives them an incentive to be more proactive in opening the data they manage.

Business is one of the key areas targeted by portals. In addition to transparency, promoting civic development, and research, open data as a business development tool has become a more frequent target of open data initiative. The McKinsey report on open data, despite its misgivings, acutely noted the role that opening weather and GPS data had on creating new products in the economy. Like all constituents, requests from start-ups does help gauge the interesting datasets

I do frequently reach out to businesses to see how open data can help, ranging from start-ups to more established companies. This includes start-ups in Chicago, reaching out to start-ups who have released apps based on open data in other cities, and large companies. Reaching-out to local start-ups helps achieve a pair of goals: expanding the use of open data and supporting the local start-up economy. It is relatively easy to reach out to these start-ups, find them in incubators, see them at OpenGov Hack Night, and visiting entrepreneurship courses in MBA programs are some of the key actions. A network of supporting characters, such as Smart Chicago Collaborative, helps keep us connected to potential companies.

Likewise, it has been important to reach out to companies that have released products based on open data in other cities. If we can’t be the first city rolling out with an application, we want to be the second. We’ll actively reach out to these companies and make sure they’re aware of our portal, make sure they’re aware we have similar data, and ask if we can help in case we don’t have that data or there are questions about it (this is when good metadata can really matter). While I cannot point to anything that has launched yet, I’m looking forward to some new services that may be launched in the city due to this effort.

Nevertheless, some interesting challenges started to rise. While working with one large mapping company, we were making an effort to provide some of our maps that could be used in an application. We noted many maps were released using the very permissive MIT license. This license seemed to be the best poised to include in a commercial application. However, the following clause created an issue: “The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.”

The application development team was unsure if such a clause could be included in the license. This was a bit of an impasse, but these challenges will pop-up that requires everyone to adjust. So, while including terms of open source licensing has become common for many enterprises, it still may be a challenge for others. Nevertheless, other proactive relationships with businesses do seem an important role for the CDO is the public sector. After all, we usually just supply the data, it’s you who makes it interesting.

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