The Rise of Chief Data Officers

The Rise of Chief Data Officers

The Rise of Chief Data Officers

First we saw the introduction of chief information officers (CIO), and now a new trend is emerging for the addition of the position of chief data officer (CDO) to the C-suite of some companies. Experian has predicted that the CDO position will become a standard senior board level role by 2020, bringing the conversation around data gathering, management, optimization, and security to the C-level.

But do companies really need to add yet another executive to their board just to manage data?

A recent survey by Experian suggests that a full 90 percent of CIOs surveyed said that data was changing the way they do business, and 92 percent thought a chief data officer would be best-suited to be the guardian of data within an organization and determine data strategy.

But some still don’t see the need for a CDO.  They believe that data is information and therefore belongs under the chief information officer in the org-chart. In my view, these naysayers are missing the big picture: Big data is no longer a tiny branch of business that can be ignored or thought of as IT’s problem. Data is an integral part of every single business department and system, and those organizations that refuse to see that are doomed to irrelevance in the very near future.

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Personally, I believe that this inevitable shift in bringing the conversation around data to the top levels can only benefit any given company or organization. Regardless of a company’s verticals, data quality and optimization is key to the success of practically any venture.

The argument for a chief data officer seems obvious from where I sit.  First, it makes sense to centralize decision-making and responsibilities for all aspects of data across an organization. In the past, accounting teams were often responsible for not just financial data, but all data by default. But finance professionals cannot be expected to understand, manage, or optimise non-financial data, nor be the stewards of data for every department including marketing, human resources, and supply chain.  A CDO would oversee how an organization’s data is gathered, managed, protected, and monetized.

Another key function of the CDO would be security and regulations. Over the past decades, chief information officers have had to implement HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and other types of government regulations in the U.S.

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