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The Role of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) in 2020

  • John Morrell
  • October 20, 2020

The role of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) in 2020 is evolving as CDOs are having quite possibly their most important and challenging year in their nearly two-decade existence in order to best meet the needs of their organizations and the capabilities of data. 2020 has become the year that everyone became fully aware of data and its role in our lives.

As COVID-19 rapidly spread into a pandemic, business models were turned on their head, supply chains dried up and consumer behavior drastically altered.  CDOs, largely the leader of an organization’s overall data strategy, needed to deliver new ways to harness data and deliver insights quickly to help the business adjust.

In greater numbers than ever before, organizations around the world are harnessing the data that flows into and out of their systems to accurately forecast sales, customer retention, new products, competitor performance, employee satisfaction, regulatory compliance, fraud reduction and more. To put it simply: Data is a commodity that must be harnessed by your business or you will be left behind.

Thus, the CDO’s role has drastically evolved. No longer is the CDO only responsible for maintaining regulatory compliance and potentially increasing efficiencies – the CDO could be the most important member of the leadership team other than the CEO.

History

The first CDO appointment occurred in 2002, when CapitalOne appointed Cathy Doss to the position. The role was created largely as a response to the passing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which itself was created as a response to various financial scandals. This new regulation required far more data governance and retention than ever before. Despite the newfound need for the role, growth in the position was relatively flat until the financial crisis of 2008-2010.

As recently as 2012, only 12% of large companies had a CDO. However, as many organizations realized the important role data plays in their business, those numbers began to rise sharply. In fact, in 2018, organizations with an appointed CDO rose to nearly 70%, and Gartner estimates that by 2025, 90% of large organizations will have a CDO.

Evolution of the role

Initially, the CDO was created primarily in response to new federal finance laws, thus serving largely as a defensive role with a focus on governance and regulation. However, as technology improvements in the form of hardware and software emerged, coupled with an expansion in the field of data analytics, progressive executives noted the potential for offensive utilization of corporate data. Soon these organizations were able to monetize the data they were already collecting in the form of new efficiencies, productivity and overall growth.

For example, previously, various departments’ data was siloed, meaning that product development data wasn’t necessarily available to customer support or marketing. Under the leadership of the CDO, this data now exists as a thread that weaves throughout the organization, connecting design engineers all the way through to the customer. The CDO now serves as the tip of the innovation spear and not simply as a data steward.

Challenges and opportunities

While the role of the CDO continues to evolve and serve their organizations in new ways, there remain challenges that must be addressed:

  • Who does the CDO report to? Ideally, the CDO will be an equal on the executive team but the organizational fit varies.
  • Stakeholder buy-in to both the usage of data and the role itself also varies greatly in different organizations.
  • Battles with the CIO. CIOs trend towards attempting to save money while CDOs typically want to invest in new technologies.
  • High turnover. The average tenure of a CDO is two years. This may however come from CDOs going to where the grass is greener.
  • Clarity of mission. Only 28% of recent survey respondents say that the role is successful and established.
  • Data silos. Data is still extremely siloed and scattered in most organizations and it can be difficult to bring it all together and more importantly, understand it.

But just as there are questions and challenges for CDOs, there are also opportunities the office of the CDO can now offer their organizations:

Changes for 2020

Harnessing the power of data in the form of digital transformation will be imperative for most organizations going forward. AI, ML and data analytics are no longer buzz words only for tech and finance, and every successful organization will pivot towards viewing data as an asset. COVID-19 has challenged everyone in all walks of life. Companies that have embraced data have been able to analyze their help desk data, VPN information and other portions of their computing environments to determine what remote work policies are working are which are not.

In the healthcare industry, the office of the CDO has been able to provide information on the availability of personal protection equipment (PPE), beds and staff to ensure adequate treatment is available for COVID-19 patients. Additionally, grocery chains have been taxed as never before, and data models are providing valuable information on supply and demand as well as the health of frontline grocery workers.

The post-COVID-19 world will offer opportunities due to the lessons learned and data ingested during the pandemic, such as enhanced digitization of workflows, robust disaster recovery plans, investment opportunities and more. If 2020 has shown us anything, it is in the power of responsible data collection and sharing. CDOs that leverage this new emphasis on data and invest in the future will steer their organizations to new heights while building robust plans for future opportunities as well as crises. This is a new era, an era where data is king and the CDO will be a critical player in determining the success or failure of organizations.

About Datameer Spotlight

We have seen that three area CDO’s are heaving focusing on include self-service, governance, and data literacy. Datameer Spotlight sits at the intersection of these three needs, encompassing and embracing each of these capabilities to deliver a unified analytics data management solution to the business teams.

Datameer Spotlight enables business teams to discover, access, collaborate and analyze more data in a hybrid landscape to eliminate analytics blind spots. Spotlight enables faster, more trusted analytics by business teams while eliminating complex data movement and maintaining strong security and governance.  And Spotlight is build for the cloud, fully embracing the agility and cost benefits the cloud offers.

To the CDO, Spotlight provides a platform they can provide to make business teams self-sufficient in their analytics data needs, and freeing up data teams for more essential projects. At the same time Spotlight gives them the security and governance controls they need to keep the Chief Security Officers satisfied.  And lastly, it enables a much more cost-effective cloud analytics model and cost structure.

To learn more about Spotlight, visit the Datameer Spotlight section of our website. Or, if you’re ready, test drive Spotlight yourself by signing up for our free trial (sign up on that page).

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