The changing role of Chief Data Officer or CDO

Chief Data Officer profiles - from Forrester

As enterprise IT evolved, the roles assigned to key decision makers also underwent drastic changes. A decade ago, the CIO alone was capable of handling the IT; the scenario is no more the same. As security threats became sophisticated and out of control, the need for a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) became inevitable. Similarly, as organizations started realizing the value of data a few years ago, another key role has emerged in the form of Chief Data Officer (CDO). Initially, the CDOs were assigned with the task of identifying the real and perceived threat and escalating them to the corresponding teams. With Digital Transformation gaining the priority in enterprise IT, the role played by CDOs is set to change in the coming days.

Do you have a Chief Data Officer?

While the CDO is a relatively new concept, survey reports from across the world suggest that ‘data decision makers’ are already part of many organizations, actively engaged in key strategic and business transformation roles. In fact, a survey conducted by Forrester reveals that 51 percent of data and analytics decision makers report working for a firm with a CDO; of those currently without the role, 40 percent plan to appoint one within the next 12 months.

The CDO profiles vary from one organization to the other. Some of the common titles identified by Forrester through its survey and industry interactions include: Chief Analytics Officer, Director- Data Strategy, VP – Analytics, Director – Center of Data Excellence, Big Data Practice Head, Head of Insights, and the like.

CDOs to drive digital transformation journey   

Digital transformation, in today’s context, revolves around data. The emergence of Big Data has redefined the data ecosystem. Concepts like Data Lake have emerged to simplify the tasks associated with data analytics. However, several organizations face challenges associated with curating enterprise data effectively. To be successful in digital transformation efforts, organizations need to de-clutter the data lying in the silos across various departments.  The role of CDOs gains relevance in this context.

According to Forrester, CDOs and their data and analytics cohorts are more empowered than ever to oversee and drive the digital journey in enterprises because they enjoy a more strategic position reporting to the CEO. With this reporting structure, CDOs can lobby for data and analytics to be a core component of the company’s priority and long-term strategy.

When the CDO becomes another power center in enterprise IT, the challenge associated with data and analytics budget also gets addressed promptly. Organizations without CDOs are more likely to cite “lack of budget” as a significant challenge in their big data analytics initiatives. Forrester survey reveals that 31 percent of decision makers at firms with a CDO reported a planned budget increase of at least 5 percent compared with only 19 percent of those without a CDO.

Above benefits apart, the role played by a dedicated data decision maker can add significant value to a business in terms of technology and business innovation. It is found that organizations having a dedicated data officer are easily adapted to modern technologies like Predictive Analytics, Prescriptive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and more, compared to their peers without a CDO. Also, CDOs are smarter at devising new business strategies, creating new data commercialization and monetization opportunities, further helping drive business growth.

To sum up, CDOs are here to stay, and their roles are likely to become quite exciting in the coming days. However, organizations are likely to commit the mistake by assigning the entire burden on the Data Officer and expect miracles from them. Forrester survey reveals some of these trends wherein the CDOs are seen “as the silver bullet or the savior on a white horse.” To be successful in the digital transformation journey, the CEO, CIO, CDO and other key decision makers should work in tandem and adopt a pragmatic approach to achieve the deliverables consistently.

Rajani Baburajan

[email protected]

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