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The evolving role of the Chief Data Officer

Businesses talk a great deal about being data-driven. Yet, using data for strategic purposes can often prove to be more challenging than it would first appear. Organizations today are at the center of a data dilemma, plagued by inaccurate and unstandardized data, information that is scattered across disparate systems, and a lack of defined processes and skilled employees. Yet, business users are demanding access to data with greater urgency than ever before.

That’s why organizations are investing in the people, processes, and technology to improve their utilization of data. Specifically, they are looking to bring together these disciplines in a coordinated manner by hiring a Chief Data Officer (CDO). At a high level, the key responsibility of the CDO is to define and implement a tactical data management strategy for their organizations. In doing so, they enable the business to leverage its data as a strategic asset.

The mainstream adoption of the CDO role has really proliferated within the last couple of years. Despite the value that they bring to organizations, CDOs tend to be the least understood of the C-level executives. In fact, they can be somewhat enigmatic—they sit between the IT department and individual lines of the business, they are supposed to be driving innovation and also safeguarding their data, they report to the CEO as well as to the CIO and CTO, they have even been confused with the chief digital officer more times than they can count. You get the point—CDOs have it rough.

It’s no wonder that since the inception of the CDO role half a decade ago, those in the position have had to pioneer their roles. As a result, the role of the chief data officer has evolved significantly over recent years. We were curious to know how CDOs were managing this change, so we embarked on a study to look at the evolution of the CDO and to really dig into their perceptions and challenges. We spoke to more than 50 CDOs as well as 200 CIOs in the US to gather their insight.

Much of what we learned surprised us. For example, did you know that 47 percent of CDOs entered their positions without a clear objective or remit? Or that while 37 percent of CDOs report to CEOs, more than half of them report to IT or business executives? While these revelations are certainly compelling, we believe that they are indicative of a role in transition. And while many CDOs report feeling an increased sense of value that they add to their organizations, they frequently need to fight for their position at the C-level table.

The role of the CDO is intricate yet invaluable to organizations. That’s why 82 percent of the CIOs we spoke to believe that there is a compelling business case to hire a CDO in most organizations today. Now you can learn more about the CDO in our report,“The Chief Data Officer: Powering business opportunities with data.” In it, we discuss our findings from this unique study, including the CDO’s evolving responsibilities, their not-so-typical reporting structure, and their sometimes-tense relationship with the CIO. 

Getting to know your CDO has never been easier thanks to our latest research report. 

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