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Rise of the CDO

by Brian Sims
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

The never-ending race to drive competitive advantage and improved efficiency to the full through the enhanced use of information assets is leading to a sharp rise in the number of chief data officers (CDOs) in post. As a result, security market analyst Gartner predicts that no less than 90% of larger companies will have embraced a CDO role come the end of 2019.

“Today’s business leaders are beginning to grasp the huge potential of ‘digital’. Consequently, they’re demanding a better return on information assets as well as the full use of analytics,” explained Mario Faria, research vice-president at Gartner.

Faria continued: “It’s a logical next step to create an executive position – the CDO – in order to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities arising from the industrial-scale collection and harnessing of key-critical information.”

CDOs themselves will face a number of challenges, to the extent that only around 50% of them will be successful in their endeavours as they enter 2020. One challenge is that the role will be new in most organisations, with the majority of CDOs learning as they progress. Ahead of them, they’ll encounter the somewhat difficult task of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that ties the activities of their team members directly to measurable business outcomes.

“With the explosion of datasets everywhere,” asserted Faria, “an important task is determining which information can add business value, drive efficiency or otherwise improve the discipline of risk management. The CDO’s role will raise expectations of better results from an enterprise information management strategy, with stakeholders desiring a clear idea of the exact mechanics when it comes to making success a reality.”

The confluence of high expectations and limited knowledge around information management among business users could render it difficult for CDOs to gain the budget and commitment from the business they need in order to make their plans a success. Almost inevitably, this raises a political aspect around the role. That being so, building trust and relationships within the organisation will be hugely important.

For their part, already successful CDOs are doing a great job of working with Chief Information Officers to lead change and break down resistance. However, many CDOs report high levels of change resistance – and particularly so from the IT Department – over the control of information assets and their governance.

How, then, might the new breed of CDOs overcome such challenges? First, they need to create an enterprise information management strategy based on the organisation’s own business blueprint and predominant value discipline. Continual education of senior leaders and peers concerning the role that data and information plays in overall business success is critical.

Further, baselines around information governance and ‘data monetisation’ from which progress may be measured must be established, with quantifiable information metrics tied to their quantifiable KPI cousins as a means of demonstrating progress.

Ultimately, CDOs’ success will depend heavily on securing the resources of business leaders, so too other key units within the company. Engagement is very definitely the name of the game.

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