Scroll Top

New in the C-Suite – Chief Data Officer

Not long ago, data was considered as just data, but now it’s the new gold and it has now been also accepted that data is the new oil. Data plays a pivotal role in assisting organizations to arrive at business strategies based on sales, customers, trends or marketing. As the data being collected around us keeps on exploding, the expectations for actionable insights as well as an increased ROI also increases simultaneously. Given the scenario, the role of a Chief Digital Officer (or CDO) in an organization has started becoming increasingly crucial.

According to Forrester, the adoption of CDO in 2015 has increased by 45%, immediately followed by a 16% increase in 2016. According to Visual Capitalist, 63 % of the Fortune 500 organizations have a CDO role, and the number is slated to rise to 90% by the next year. The budget for a CDO had increased by 23% in 2017 and from 2010 to 2017 their numbers have increased from 15 to 4000 in the top fortune organization.

But, this rapid growth along with the new requirement has thrown up some confusion and the exact boundaries of a CDOs role is still being refined and evolving with time. Up until recently, decision-makers relied majorly on experience and the good old gut feeling to arrive at key decisions, but things have changed with the increase in the ease with which data can be collected and processed. Due to the newness of the role, more than 83% of the CDOs today have an experience of fewer than 3 years. Professionals are split right down the middle whether CDO should be a change agent brought in from outside or should be a company veteran. The majority feel that as a CDO, one’s responsibility should primarily data strategy and no other executive functions. Many believe that administrative capacity is not a mandate for donning the hat of a CDO, but the core competencies of this role should revolve around data science and modeling. Visual Capitalist carried out a survey, and according to that the CDO should take ownership of leading data initiatives and drive data analytics strategy of an organization.

By analyzing the popular response about the expectations from a CDO, it can be surmised that the person should have the following capabilities-

Technical Knowledge– A lot of work goes into making the data ready for analyzing. Much of the data is just noise, or so unstructured that it’s of no value to the organization. That is where IT knowledge of the CDO comes into play to employ Data Management capabilities and software to cull out the meaningful from the mundane. Technical CDOs have an easier time addressing these issues. The knowledge comes in handy in those scenarios where the complexity level is very high.

Data Science– The final expected outcome is to draw actionable insights from the data collected from the various internal and external sources by the organization. CDO should be adept at analyzing, managing, sharing, storing and curating massive data sets. This requires proficiency in data science to have a firm grip on the important elements of the data.

Data Governance– One V of big data is Veracity. It can only be ensured when a robust data security and governance process is in place. Moreover, there is an increase in regulatory requirements in which Data Governance plays a big part. CDO should be able to know how to tag and catalog the data along with setting up of a system to track the lineage of the data in case of anomaly detection.

Strategy– CDOs generally have to mix their scientific acumen of reading the data along with the art of drawing inferences. It is imperative that they have a strong grasp on the organizations vision, goals, strategy and draw inferences accordingly to implement the plan.

The soft skills also play a vital role as it is mandatory that the CDO has a good relationship with most of the key players in an organization. It is more important for a CDO as the data-driven decisions will be impacting every person in the organization.

Depending on the phase the enterprise is at, the role of the CDO will have to cater to different priorities. For instance, the way the data will have to be analyzed for a new company, focusing on growth will be different from a mature company which wants to optimize their operations. How the CDO’s role will evolve in the coming times will be something to watch out for. As of now, only 2.2 percent have a clear picture of what it demands. One can draw the analogy from the customer support role which has evolved from a complaint department into the voice of the customer, CDOs role will also move up the value chain and will be responsible for bringing in profitability. Going forward the role of a CDO will get intertwined more and more with the growth of the company. As of now, we can safely assume that data has found its way into the C-suite and is there to stay and become more and more ubiquitous.

Leave a comment