The race to drive competitive advantage and improved efficiency through better use of information assets is leading to a sharp rise in the number of chief data officers (CDOs). As a result, security market analyst Gartner predicts that no less than 90% of larger companies will have a CDO role in place by the end of 2019.
“Business leaders are starting to grasp the huge potential of digital business, and demanding a better return on their organisations’ information assets and use of analytics,” explained Mario Faria, research vice-president at Gartner. “It’s a logical next step to create an executive position — the CDO — in order to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from the industrial-scale collection and harnessing of data.”
CDOs themselves will face a number of challenges, to the extent that only 50% of them will be successful in their endeavours by the end of 2019. One challenge is that the role will be new in most organisations, and the majority of new CDOs will be learning as they progress in their roles. They will have the difficult task of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that tie the activities of their team to measurable business outcomes.
“With the explosion of datasets everywhere,” continued Faria, “an important task is determining which information can add business value, drive efficiency or otherwise improve risk management. The CDO’s role will raise expectations of better results from an enterprise information management strategy, with stakeholders wanting a clear idea of the exact mechanics of making success a reality.”
The confluence of high expectations and limited knowledge around information management by business users can make it difficult for CDOs to gain the budget and commitment from the business they need so as to make their plans a success. “This raises a political aspect around the role,” added Faria. “Building trust and relationships within the organisation will be important for achieving success.”
Many CDOs already report high levels of change resistance and particularly so from the IT Department – over the control of information assets and their governance. Successful CDOs, however, are doing a great job of working with the CIO to lead change and overcome resistance.
Overcoming the common hurdles
Gartner has now listed six recommendations for new CDOs to help them overcome common challenges:
*Create an enterprise information management strategy based on the organisation’s business strategy and predominant value discipline
*Work tirelessly to build trust with various business stakeholders, most notably the CIO
*Educate senior leaders and peers about the role that data and information play in overall business success
*Establish baselines on information governance and data monetisation from which progress can be measured
*Tie quantifiable information metrics to quantifiable business Key Performance Indicators to demonstrate tangible success
*Adopt formal information asset measures and share them with the organisation
“It’s important to account for the soft skills needed in the CDO role, whether you’re applying or hiring for the position,” concluded Faria. “Ultimately, and to a significant degree, the success of a CDO will depend on his or her ability to lead the change as well as gain the enthusiasm, support and resources of business leaders and other key units within the organisation.”
*Read more information management predictions and analysis in the Research Note: “Predictions for 2016: Information Strategy”
**There are also more detailed guidelines for new CDOs in this article: “First 100 Days of a CDO”