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The role of the CDO

20th November 2014 • MBN


By Hannah Dockery

Disentangling data: data governance and the role of the CDO

In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage and control the terabytes of data embedded within the different parts of an organisation. The evolution of the “data lake” into the “data ocean” has resulted in the necessity for companies to assign a custodian representing key stakeholders’ interests. A perennial hot topic is the role of the chief data officer (CDO); according to Gartner, 25% of major organisations will have appointed a chief data officer by the end of next year (Gartner, 2014).

What characteristics are required by the person entrusted to harness data and protect stakeholder interests in an organisation? Does the seniority of this person warrant a title at C-level to be truly effective?

The CDO and data governance
In the simplest terms, data governance is the overall management of the availability, usability and security of the data used in an organisation. As the business exploitation of data continues to gather pace, companies are realising that governing data is an organisational responsibility and models are required to protect data on different levels. As a result, the individual entrusted with this task must ensure that good governance is implemented to prevent lack of data availability, poor timeliness, damaged currency and slow velocity.

Under the right leadership, data has a value that can help drive increases in profitable business. Therefore, CDOs will need to have strong communication and leadership skills. From a business transformation perspective, individuals will be in a unique position to really inspire innovation with new data exploitation technologies that can be cascaded throughout the organisation. Experience in building a case at the C-level for new technology investment will be of the highest importance, as the CEO and other members of the board must buy-in to the vision of data governance implementation.

CDO – C-level or not?
Some industry experts agree that the chief data officer position should reside alongside the chief information officer (CIO) and the chief technology officer (CTO). Early adopters of the CDO position tended to place the role with the CIO, therefore reporting to IT. However, more recently, the argument has been raised for the responsibility to be moved out to IT and into the business side of an organisation in order to promote development and growth based on data analysis.

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