eWEEKchat Recap: Rise of the Chief Data Officer in the Enterprise

We at eWEEK thought it might be good for us to provide a highlight recap of our July 12 #eWEEKchat for those who might have been on vacation or generally away from their desks that day.

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eWEEK has been a pioneer of sorts in conducting a regular, rain-or-shine event called the #eWEEKchat--an hourlong community discussion using Twitter--for the last 55 months.

Every Second Wednesday since January 2013, we use public chat for trendy discussions of wide-ranging topics, which are entirely doable despite Twitter's 140-character content limit.

On July 12, the topic was "The Rise of the Chief Data Officer and Its Importance to Enterprises." It was a particularly timely topic with some excellent input from participants, and we thought it might be good for us to provide a highlight recap for those folks who might have been on vacation or generally away from their desks on that day.

Some Background

One of the trendiest and most relevant new job classifications in the IT world is that of Chief Data Officer, the executive in charge of all a company's data. This means data creation and acquisition, integration, data "cleansing," storage, security and access, along with other responsibilities specific to each company.

After all, data is effectively a new currency for many enterprises—especially those who rely on customer and partner data to provide goods and services on a daily basis.

At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference in Barcelona last winter, researcher Gartner released its 2016 Chief Data Officer Survey, conducted with 180 chief data officers, chief analytics officers and other high-level data and analytics leaders from across the world.

MIT First Set CDO Trend in Motion

MIT, which was credited with creating the CDO idea about five years ago, most recently said it believes there are more than 3,000 executives with a CDO or similar title. Only about 200 or so had that title three years ago.

Gartner's survey found that early adopters of the CDO role and the office of the CDO are in effect pioneering a new organizational function—one to go alongside IT, business operations, HR and finance.

Naturally, enterprises that have made the strategic decision to create the CDO position are expecting to get as much new value as possible. Thirty percent of the surveyed CDOs said they report directly to the CEO.

CDOs are adding to the competitiveness of their companies by contributing to strategic planning and decision making, and by leading digital business initiatives. As a result, Gartner predicts that, by 2020, 15 percent of successful CDOs will move into CEO, COO, CMO or other C-level positions.

The OCDO accommodates a wide range of roles emphasizing data and information management, data quality, business analytics and information architecture.

"Most CDOs said that their role will focus on two key responsibilities," said Mario Faria, a managing vice president at Gartner. "Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said they are acting as a champion or change agent in leading the organizational changes required to create and sustain enterprise data and analytics capabilities.

"Sixty-one percent are leading the effort to ensure that data and analytics are integrated into the business strategy and roadmap."

Highlights of July 12 eWEEKchat

In our July 12 #eWEEKchat on this topic, Bruce Milne (@Brucem67), CMO of Pivot 3, added this perspective in a couple of tweets: "Increasingly the CDOs we meet are responsible for deeper insight into business performance and identifying business opps ... we deal with a lot of biz trying to make data-driven decisions with a lot more data. CDO becomes font of knowledge."

"Orgs that use IoT need someone to coordinate making sense of the data and compartmentalize. We are seeing more IoT @Pivot3Inc," Milne added.

In response to the question "How does a CDO make everybody's life easier?" Crystal Yang (@yang) of Grayling PR tweeted "I imagine it enables other departments to focus on their jobs."  No question about that, and that focus cannot be trivialized.

Yang added that "I work with a manufacturer with sensor-enabled factories globally.That data has to be addressed by someone, a full-time job."

Axel Troike (@AxelTroike), president of Canadian project management firm Grandite, wrote that CDOs were good for "Organizing the 3rd resource on the enterprise level (what #CFO is for Finance & #CHRO is for Human Resources) ... #CDO organizes logical #DataModel on the enterprise level (concept), #CIO breaks up silos of applications/databases (exec)."

Vince Jeffs (@vjeffs) of PegaSystems tweeted that "we don't have a CDO, but work with firms that do--the role has been to ensure more data & customer centricity."  

John Pallatto (@BoldBodoni) commented that, in regard to the functionality of CDOs, "I expect that more and more it involves data science and big data analytics by making sure the enterprise has the right tools."

To that, Milne added that a "data scientist cares about collection, volume, organization of data. CDO derives business insight from data. Different/related."

Jeffs tweeted that "The CDO is a very strategic / broad initiative based role vs data scientist which helps solve very specific problems imho," to which yours truly (@editingwhiz) added: "Agreed. With data becoming the de facto lingua franca of new-gen business (how about my Latin!), CDO a central figure."

In continuing to find the definition of a CDO, Yang tweeted: "Difference bw CIO/CDO seems to be,CIO's are responsible for strategy of info exchange, and CDO's for data analysis/interpretation."

To the question "How does (or should) a CDO interact with the CEO? CIO? CMO?" I suggested that "A CDO is sort of like a playmaker in hoops: Dishing out the goods so others can score ;-)."  

Troike said that "#CDO reports to #CEO (as #CHRO & #CFO should do)." Jeffs replied that a "CDO should work across the functional areas, helping pull them together around the promise of customer data being the glue for CX."

Troike then expanded his view, tweeting "My rule: #CIO may report to #CDO, #CDO must not report to #CIO, preferably #CDO & #CIO are peers, both reporting to #CEO."

Milne thought that a "CDO should consider all of the above customers. All need insight to inform strategy. A lot of IT orgs struggle- can't help ... Turf issues: CDO needs unfettered access to all data. That can be a sensitive issue. Needs mandate from CEO, even BOD."

Jeffs added: "CDO shouldn't report into IT / CIO ... needs to have a strong seat that is cross-functional & part of biz."

Those are only some of snippets from the hourlong #eWEEKchat, held each Second Wednesday at 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern/7pm GMT. The next one will be held Aug. 9, with the topic: "Trends in DevOps and Agile Development."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...