Conscientious Role of the Emerging Chief Data Officer [CDO]

If there was no rain one would have never thought of umbrellas; likewise, there are billions of such objects and phenomenon in the universe which came into existence due to interconnectedness in terms of being a means to an end or something or the other. Talking about the world of business, we do know that it is dynamic in nature- it changes internally and externally at official or operational levels at various points of time. So, it is inevitable that there will arise the need for someone to be there, to act an anchor for each department within the business organization.

Considering this, the emergence of the CDO [Chief Data Officer] was due to a major shift related to data- intense digitization and the rise of Big Data, Artificial intelligence, policies like GDPR etc. The businesses felt the need to have a C-level executive to intrinsically handle the tremors and manage the databases within the organization in accordance to the euphoria.

The areas in which they have a major say is at a transitional stage; it is not cent percent definite. Some tag them with strategizing, some with analytics, sometimes both and some companies have even vested these chief executives with revenue generation duties. Therefore, it is difficult to pick one of these to form a basis to describe their functions.

However, let’s delve into what the Chief Data Officers [CDO] are up to, their evolution and how would they fare in the future.

The key people who felt the need to have a CDO comprised of-

  • CEO [Chief Executive Officer] by 41 percent.
  • Senior VPs and VPs by 24 percent.
  • Stake Holders by 19 percent.

[Cited by180 executives with the mentioned designation in a research by Gartner, 2016]

Looking at the stats we can infer that the demand for the Chief Data Officers came from the major decision making body of the companies and we do know that the decision makers belong to the no nonsense zone and they are always on a look out for substantial growth of the business they belong to.

The acceptance for this C-Level portfolio over the years-

  • 2012- The companies who wanted to embrace the Chief Data Officer was 12 percent.
  • 2018- The number increased to 63.3 percent.

It can be clearly seen that the frequency with which the CDOs are being accepted is on the rise and globally recognized research companies have analyzed that the scenario would be intensified in the days ahead. Therefore, we can sink in the fact that they are here for the good and are going to stay for a much longer time span.


  • The designation of a Chief Data Officer is usually assigned to executives with math, engineering or an MBA background. However, the priority mostly revolves around those individuals who understand the value of data and have managerial and technical skills to handle them. Nowadays, it has become a mandate for them to know about various solutions related to Big Data like for e.g. Hadoop and genuine knowledge about concepts like Data Science.

You can approach them through-

Now that we know about where the story really began, it would be appropriate for us to elaborate what is the hype all about! What is it that they do?

Taking care of data

With the passage of time the companies have started realizing data as a one of their precious assets and they are ready to integrate solutions within their reach to keep them protected. The case was not the same in the past but as the world is getting increasingly digitized the meaning, format and the usage of data is continuously transforming. Hence, the businesses expect the Chief Data Officer to take care of their vast databases encompassing both the business and the customers; mostly to update, append, and keep them valid. This function requires the data officer to be backed by a solid and diligent Data Management Team as their combination is bound to substantiate the work process.

Assimilating data

Each team within a company will have their individual set of data and to imagine its volume is not simple. But a CDO has to make it point to assimilate the widespread data and we may even think that the CIO or a COO could do that, however, the necessity is to engage with it with concentrated efforts. The information or the operating officer do require to stay connected with data yet their contribution is distributed to other assignments as well. Therefore, when it comes to the data officer a business can be assured that he/she will be involved with nothing else but data. It would be challenging to break through the silent barriers and walk through the various sections but they’ve got to do what they’ve got do and a sensible executive would know how to go about with the challenge.

Subside Data Silos

The presence of isolated group of data [data silos] has been a major concern of the various business organizations since a long time, and it seems almost inevitable due to the fact that there are divisions based on functionalities and requirements. However, the CDO [Chief Data Officer] has to make honest efforts to break the walls and pave a genuine pathway for the data to flow through the various departments without much disruptions. Yes, each zone has its own thing but transparency is a good thing to have- you know, being in touch with each other’s work flow, being aware of the metrics etc. because no matter which part of the business you belong to everything is constantly heading towards achieving the common goal.

Coordinate Business and IT

Maintaining a coordination between business and the IT zone within a company is one of the crucial roles of a Chief Data Officer. They got to roll up their sleeves to accomplish this mission as the alignment of the business operations and the Information Technology teams will fuel up the process to achieve the proposed company goals efficiently. How does this happen? Access to insights from the IT department and the mutual understanding that operating a business and technology go hand in hand should be enough to generate the conditions for productive journey ahead. As these executives head the data sector inside and out, the reigns to direct their course is in their hands but it is quite an expansive puzzle to put together.

Creating Data Driven Enterprise

To nurture and track data is to build a resource and a connecting point for the better functioning of a business organization. Moreover, the information available are of the consumers and the business both; be it innovating new line of products and services, marketing, sales, distribution of budget, rotating notifications within the company, framing new policies and strategies or other data related tasks, details based on the two entities is all that you need. The Chief Data Officer would have to contribute a lot of his energy on making the entire enterprise a data driven endeavor for the discernments we can make from data during these digitized era are comprehendible and worth our time and efforts. Something like this cannot be accomplished in a short time period because this more of the pathway for the business to tread upon rather than being the destination itself.

Data has been regarded as a powerful reference tool since ages but they are equally volatile in nature- a small crack can change their structure and when this happens there will be a state of commotion within a business because the majority of decisions they make is based upon data which is in hand and the acquired data from external sources.

Also, referring to an interview done by McKinsey with Scott Richardson, Chief Data Officer of Fannie Mae based on his initial days of his new role clearly states that it basically revolves around understanding and respecting human relationships. And, it makes sense because this c-level executive has to transit through various sections of the business including people who work under those divisions and hold them together with data.

Author: Shiann Garcia

Shiann Garcia is a blogger and content writer with ample experience in the field. Inspired by her travel escapades during her college days, writing to express herself has been her forte. Sharing a deep insight into content marketing has allowed her to understand the varied perceptions of the marketing business world. Shiann loves to cook during her free times and enjoys learning more about different cultures.

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