How the Role of Chief Data Officer Is Changing in 2017


How in-demand is the role of Chief Data Officer? According to recent data studies, very.

2017 is set to be one of the biggest years yet for data analytics, and that means the demand for CDOs is on the rise.

Because companies are using data across multiple silos in a variety of functions, data is now much more of a commodity than it was a mere decade ago, and along with the ever-changing growth of data, the role of a CDO is changing along with it.

While some of the primary responsibilities of CDOs hasn’t changed – tracking and interpreting data trends, for example – organizations are now implementing data-driven strategies like never before, which means that CDOs are no longer the sole gatekeepers for big data.

For those who have either been in the role for many years and are now wondering what lies ahead, or those just stepping into it, this means facing a bevy of new challenges in the world of data management.

Here’s what you should know…

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Changes to the Role of CDO

According to Mark Gambill, CMO of MicroStrategy, the CDO was originally born “as an attempt to create a bridge between functional leaders who need information in real time and the IT department.”

He argues that in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for the role at all, but because data is “challenging, frustrating, and expensive” organizations need someone who can dedicate their time to sift through the complexities.

As Omri Kohl, founder of Pyramid Analytics, notes, organizations will need to take advantage of this role in 2017 like never before. He believes that companies looking to gain a competitive edge will need to shift their views on how to use data as well as leverage the capabilities of CDOs.

“As data becomes more robust, organizations are realizing that deploying a business analytics platform is not a nice-to-have anymore but instead a must-have,” he says. “And creating one role responsible for the centralized ownership of the overall data strategy will be critical to an organization’s success.”

This will require CDOs to understand the full capabilities of data and develop strategic solutions to utilize throughout the entire organization.

Because CDOs work with data across multiple departments and divisions, they will need to deal with more than just numbers and figures – they will need to deal in strategy.

CDOs in 2017 will be change agents: knowing how things operate, where and why there’s resistance to change, and how to help people understand the applications of complex data to drive growth.

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And as data continues to become more prevalent and complex in the years to come, the primary role of the CDO will be not only to help organizations understand data, but to implement it in new and creative ways.

Challenges Faced by Modern CDOs

With such a shift in responsibilities, there are certain challenges faced by the modern CDO compared to earlier counterparts.

CDOs will be tasked with communicating and stewarding data in ways previous generations never did. They will need to take advantage of existing data while using it to drive practical innovation, all while setting priorities for the use of data throughout the company.

Essentially, modern CDOs will be responsible for:

  • Establishing the organization’s data strategy – CDOs must lead the transformation to becoming a “data-driven organization” and ensure that data is being valued and understood properly
  • Integrating data across multiple silos – Because data will need to be organized throughout many departments, CDOs are responsible for making sure it integrates well and drives tangible results
  • Monetizing and creating value from data – CDOs will need to monetize data to drive marketing and sales funnels instead of simply analyzing and reporting on trends
  • Understanding data security and risks – CDOs will be responsible for protecting data and understanding any and all potential risks and threats

They will also need to be able to communicate the “what, why, and how” of data to both the leadership and the technical members of their organizations. This means working closely with upper management and not just IT teams.

But how does a CDO do that, exactly?

How to Overcome Data Challenges in 2017

Tony Fross, VP of digital advisory services at Capgemini Consulting, believes that CDOs will need to position themselves as authorities in their respective companies more than ever before.

“CDOs need to be chiefs, and not buried four layers under the CEO. They have to have ownership of an enterprise strategy with broad horizontal input. Otherwise, they’re not truly CDOs.”

According to Fross, CDOs will need to create clear objectives and incentives for companies that still don’t value data, and they will need to promote the capabilities and potential of data for companies that already value it.

Part of that will be using fact-based evidence to support the usage of data alongside a level of emotional resonance to help communicate their message.

According to Gartner’s 2016 report, there is currently a lack of meaningful metrics to measure the effectiveness of the CDO, but CDOs can overcome this by delivering clear value and by positioning themselves as data authorities.

This means CDOs will need to:

  • Connect departments across the organization – Expanding the use of data beyond just “technical” departments is essential
  • Develop a data roadmap – Data strategies will need to capture the right data for use in areas like sales, marketing, and other customer-related channels
  • Turn data into action – Data should be harnessed in real-time so that organizations can run with it
  • Anticipate data needs and attack challenges head on – CDOs will need to take on leadership roles, not merely analytical ones

In order to face the many challenges of modern data, CDOs will need to be flexible enough to work with both technical and non-technical teams to develop data strategies that offer practical value.

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Final Thoughts

In order for CDOs to be effective in helping to create data-driven organizations, they will need to not only monitor data, but also help leaders understand its value and apply it to multiple processes throughout the company.

This means creating strategic roadmaps to guide upper management, working closely with C-Level leadership to understand how data can be used to drive growth. This also means working with technical (and non-technical departments) to implement data in creative ways.

But most importantly, this means dedicating the time and energy to understanding the true value of data, communicating that value to others, and turning numbers into practical and measurable results.