​Back in June 2016, I wrote this article addressing the apparent ambiguity in the emerging C-level role, the CDO. Over the past couple of years, the role has grown from emerging in forward-thinking organisations to a mainstream role on the executive board. If you ask any Chief Data Officer, they’d tell you their role has changed drastically since then.

I linked to this in my last post but look at how the CDO has changed as reported at CIO.co.uk. The quotes and reporting line information prove a really exciting journey ahead.

Gartner’s 2016 prediction suggested 90% of large organisations will have a CDO by 2019. Now they’re even suggesting 15 Percent of those CDOs who are successful will move to CEO, COO, CMO or Other C-Level Positions by 2020!

Early CDOs battled mainly with data governance, quality and regulatory demands, but things have moved on since then. But why? And what are the key responsibilities of the CDO now?

Data, Data, Data!

Over the past decade, the data industry’s growth and recognition have been phenomenal. The critical thing here is that data is on everyone’s agenda, even outside the data industry. Everywhere you go, there is data; in the news, on devices in your hand, people know about AI, voice assistants, connected homes and self-driving cars; people have started to care about data privacy, GDPR and data security!!

It’s no surprise CDOs are in more demand than ever, which paints a picture of how the role has evolved.

The specialised data disciplines like Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing, Data Governance and Quality, Analytics and Data Science have become integrated as organisations strive to move from a disparate data landscape into a consolidated well thought through data strategy to deliver business value by leveraging other business areas like IT, Marketing and Finance along the way.

This definition of the CDO from Cynosure sums up the transformational role “One person, who is ultimately an advocate for opening conversations for how data could supercharge the business, but also someone who can take a holistic view across the organisation to join up initiatives, call out risks without emotional connection and report back to the Board”.

Why you need a CDO

CDOs take tapped and untapped potential from the vast data your business holds and provide business value. Their sole responsibility is to provide business value through the appropriate use, re-use and exploitation of data. They align data initiatives to technology and ensure data is well managed within your company.

They will help you to reduce costs, maximise profitability and reduce leakage; they will provide value where you have never seen it before whilst creating a culture in your business where everyone understands data as an asset.

Strategy before technology

Any data professional worth their salt will tell you technology-first implementations always reach a point of friction or failure, whether it’s budgetary spending focussed elsewhere in the organisation or a drastic realisation the quality, governance and integrity of data is much worse than expected. That’s where the CDO comes in.

They will provide the strategy and glue to allow data and wider IT and business change initiatives to succeed. They will then align and leverage the best available mix of technology to ensure success and bring the right people into your organisation to make it succeed.

To wrap up, I’d suggest checking out the “3 Top takeaways” from Gartners CDO survey from Jan 2018 here; it makes for an interesting read.  Also, if you hadn’t put data as a top priority for your business in 2018, rethink, appoint a CDO and flourish.

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