Report: The Importance of the Chief Data Officer

According to the research giant Gartner, the chief data officer is increasingly growing in popularity and has the potential to be a game-changer for many organizations. Here’s why.

If you haven’t made room for a data pro in your C-suite, now’s a good time to look into it.

At least that’s what Gartner is saying. In the latest edition of its Chief Data Officer survey [subscription required], Gartner makes the argument that chief data officers (or leaders with similar roles and different titles, like chief analytics officer) have the potential to offer major value to a given organization.

The role is becoming more popular overall, with 57 percent of respondents holding a formal CDO title, up from 50 percent just a year ago. Additionally, nearly half of organizations surveyed (47 percent) have a dedicated CDO office, which is more than double the findings just a year ago. With the expanded role comes an expanded budget, with many CDO offices having an average of $8 million to spend, and some seeing budgets as high as $20 million.

This, says Gartner Research Director Valerie Logan, highlights the way that CDOs are helping to create value for an organization.

“While the early crop of CDOs was focused on data governance, data quality, and regulatory drivers, today’s CDOs are now also delivering tangible business value, and enabling a data-driven culture,” Logan said in a news release. “Aligned with this shift in focus, the survey also showed that for the first time, more than half of CDOs now report directly to a top business leader such as the CEO, COO, CFO, president/owner or board/shareholders.”

Logan adds that, in the coming years, “the office of the CDO will be seen as a mission-critical function” in three quarters of large organizations.

Much of the reason for that is because of the growing number of things that CDOs do. More than 7 in 10 act as a thought leader internally (71 percent), help create and maintain external relationships with partners (75 percent), and work to find new ways to exploit data (77 percent).

One other interesting point highlighted by the survey is the fact that the role was often more diverse than other C-suite roles, with nearly 30 percent of CDOs under age 40, and nearly 20 percent women.

But does the rise of the CDO threaten other C-suite roles? Not necessarily. In comments to ZDNet, Logan said that the CIO was safe.

“CDOs have a broad set of responsibilities, per the survey, including data management, analytics, data science, ethics, and supporting digital transformation,” she told the outlet. “We do not see those responsibilities expanding into the CIO role of application management, technical infrastructure, etc.”

However, she warned that the Chief Data Officer might duke it out with the other CDO—the Chief Digital Officer—for prominence. She suggested that the Chief Digital Officer was a “temporal” role, while the Chief Data Officer showed more potential for a lasting impact.

(NicoElNino/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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