A Deeper Look at the Role of Chief Data Officer

on November 7th, 2016
Data analytics

Digital transformation marched into your company and changed everything. Data analytics changed the way you gather BI, mobile tech changed the way you collaborate and work remotely, and the cloud changed the way you store data and access software applications.

Now that DX is firmly rooted in your business, it’s coming for a seat at the executive table. Along with your CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, and a slew of VP’s of this, that, and the other — make room for the CDO, or Chief Data Officer. According to Gartner, about half of all companies that operate within regulated industries will have a CDO in place by 2017. Here’s a deeper look at that new role.

The Responsibilities of the CDO

The Chief Data Officer is a senior-level executive with responsibility for the entirety of a company’s data and data analytics. This includes accepting responsibility for the business’ information strategy, data governance, data control, data policy development and enforcement, and data discovery, or finding new sources of data and determining how to include them in the business’ overall data strategy.

A CDO also accepts responsibility for the protection and privacy of the company’s data. They oversee data quality issues, and develop and execute data cleansing plans. But the CDO also makes sure that the company is making full, effective, efficient use of the data and data analytics they own and have access to. The CDO will oversee data mining efforts, information trading with other organizations and partners, and related activities.

How the CDO Differs from the CIO

These responsibilities seem to have some overlap with the CIO, or Chief Information Officer. In fact, it’s quite important that these two positions don’t have any overlap in the corporate structure. The Chief Data Officer should take responsibility from a business perspective for determining what kinds of data the business captures, collects, stores, and how it will be used. The Chief Information Officer, however, sticks to the responsibilities associated with the storage and use of the data. The CDO focuses on risk mitigation and data management, including compliance issues.

Similarly, the CDO will oversee collection of data and analytical strategies that serve to forward the goals and purposes of the organization. The CDO should serve as the tie that binds between the corporate data strategy and the metrics or data analytics. Conversely, the CIO will be involved in a role of coordinating with the COO (Chief Operating Officer) or CFO (Chief Financial Officer).

In some organizations, the line between the CDO’s position and the CIO’s responsibility will stand at the point of storage — once it’s collected and ready for processing, it becomes the CIO’s responsibility. Other organizations will likely find their own ways to determine what precisely falls under the purview of the CDO versus the CIO.

How the Chief Data Officer Differs from the Chief Digital Officer

There can also be some confusion between the Chief Data Officer and the Chief Digital Officer. The Chief Digital Officer is in charge of overseeing technologies. In other words, they would not be exclusive to the realm of data. The Chief Digital Officer would also be responsible for mobile technologies, cloud utilization, etc. However, the Chief Data Officer and the Chief Digital Officer would need to coordinate their efforts when it comes to data-related issues, such as collecting the data streaming in from mobile apps or storing regulated or sensitive data in the cloud.

In reality, every organization will need to evaluate each of these positions and determine for themselves what roles are most needed to rise to the challenges ahead of them. For some businesses, that will entail a full executive suite, a virtual alphabet soup of C-level positions. For others, this will mean having only a handful of executives who oversee a larger pool of mid-level managers to handle things related to technology, data analytics, and the digital transformation.

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