Posted by  Hugh Cox  Published on  1 Dec 2014
  • Data Strategy

What are the biggest trials and tribulations facing chief data officers? For starters, it’s the name.

Though Gartner predicts that by 2015 25% of large global organizations will have appointed Chief Data Officers (CDO), it remains a fairly new role. So much so that many people I spoke to at a recent two-day CDO Summit, in London, that those carrying the job title on business cards are unsure of their responsibilities.

Not surprisingly, the main themes of the event organized by IQPC focused on the challenges and opportunities for the CDO (Chief Data Officer) and CPO (Chief Process Officers), which are not to be confused with either the roles of Chief Digital Officer or Chief Procurement Officers.

I joke about it but there is a serious side here. If acronyms such as “CDO” and “CPO” can generate confusion in a room, then how can organizations that are desperately trying to turn complex data into meaningfully information succeed?

Organizations are drowning in data: in 2015 Zettabyte will become a familiar term for organizations, and they need all the help they can to tackle this tsunami. To put the term Zettabyte into context, if one Gigabyte is equivalent to the volume of a can of coke, then one Zettabyte is the equivalent to the volume of the Great Wall of China.

The hot topics discussed at the event were:

  • The importance of the CDO to fully appreciate, with Board backing, the real business issues the organization is trying to tackle through data analytics.
  • Why it is key to work hand-in-glove with the CIO and the larger IT function.
  • Getting ‘buy-in’ from the C Suite, focusing on the CFO where possible
  • How to attract the best people such as data analysts and scientists that are enthusiastic, smart and inquisitive
  • The growing acceptance that agile is the only proven approach to the development and deployment of analytics, so one can fail early, re-evaluate and move on.

The role of the chief data officer will undergo a certain amount of re-definition in many organizations as it becomes clear that this function is the bridge between the business imperatives and the technology platform.

To me, it’s clear what a CDO should focus on, especially in light of a Forrester Research study that reveals that only 12% percent of companies actually use data-driven intelligence to guide key business functions and corporate strategy.