Somebody at a conference once said to me: “Nobody knows what the role of a Chief Data Officer is, and if they did, they would not take the job!” That was 18 months ago, and even though the definition of the CDO role has clarified a great deal, but the improved role clarity has not reduced the challenge one iota.
When I first started looking at CDOs three years ago, they were mostly found in regulated industries like financial services and healthcare, and their primary focus was on regulatory compliance. That makes sense. After the 2008 financial crisis many new regulations were introduced and brands were very much motivated to avoid time in jail, fines, and damage to brand reputation.
Over time the focus shifted towards analytics. To the point that once, at Chief Analytics Officer event, they took time to discuss whether the CDO and CAO role were actually one and the same. They are not, but that question was actually right on target.
The best current definition of a Chief Data Officer I have found is that they are responsible for using data and analytics to increase revenue and profitability.
There is also an interesting change going on around the CDO’s reporting relationship. According to a recent Forrester report on the rise of the CDO, :
Why is that interesting? Because according to Gartner: “By 2020, only 20 percent of CDOs will report to the CIO.”
The trend I am seeing is the shift form the technically-oriented CDO (who reports to a CIO) to a more business-oriented CDO who is focused on business strategy and outcomes.