• February 14, 2017

New Hire: Why Your Company Needs a Chief Data Officer

The C-suite must embrace data science.

Making the move from data science to the corner office has the upward trajectory most analytics executives only dream of. And with more and more organizations joining the chief data officer (CDO) movement, these dreams are quickly turning into a reality. In fact, research by Gartner predicts that 50 percent of all companies in regulated industries will have a CDO by 2017.

Charged with overseeing how information is collected, managed, protected, and monetized, this emerging leader strives to provide vision and strategy for all enterprise analytics and data management activities.

Why the Shift in the C-Suite?

With Big Data analytics, social media metrics, and digital technology influencing how enterprise organizations conduct business, executives at top corporations like Procter & Gamble and Morgan Stanley are quickly realizing that managing and governing data is a competitive advantage. This title is uniquely positioned to create business value and drive innovation by leveraging information as an asset. More so, the individuals in these roles are able to bridge the business-IT divide by aligning key technology initiatives.

“As CIOs, you do not own the data,” explains Debra Logan, a Gartner Fellow and vice president. “When retiring an asset, have you been able to get a straight answer from your business on how long to keep the data? They aren’t making decisions, and you can’t make the decisions about the data.”

This is where the CDO role is necessary to manage data governance. According to Information Management, the CDO is responsible for organizing and implementing policies, procedures, and structures that define the rules of engagement, decision rights, and accountabilities for the effective management of information assets.

Finding the Right Candidate

Organizations looking to bridge the gap between information visibility and data strategy face the challenge of identifying a single individual capable of effectively holding a role that combines business and IT. In order to improve and enhance enterprise analytics, organizations need to update the structure around data management. This is where the CDO position comes into play.

So what does the role entail? At a high level, the CDO must be a champion for global data management and enterprise-wide governance.

Fresh Perspective to the Boardroom

Above all, the CDO must be capable of elevating the importance of the role within the C-suite.

“You may be the first CDO in your company, and you’ll need to work hard to give the role credibility while coaching business leaders on how data can support their goals,” Logan says.

One of those goals is data innovation, not just asset curation. Along with innovation comes the ability to be a change agent within the organization. The CDO must be comfortable navigating internal challenges as well as external roadblocks. According to SearchDataManagement.com, the ability to integrate innovation, safety, and information is required for the CDO.

“It’s a balancing act,” says Ranjana Young, CDO at Northern Trust Corporation. “The need for change management skills is much higher than you might estimate ahead of time.”

As the traditional C-suite revolutionizes to bring on the CDO, the enterprise benefits by finally embracing data science. The fact that organizations are placing value on data management and strategy across the enterprise gives data a much-needed spot on the corporate agenda.

Like this story? Learn how to shift from data to insight.