The thin line between CIO and CDO


The Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Data Officer (CDO) are both executives that work in related domains within the organisation, unlike CFOs, CMOs and other executives that have distinct areas of responsibility. Both deal with data and information in one way or another. This means that their roles are often seen, and expressed, interchangeably or even in the wrong way round. But one shouldn’t confuse them. CIOs and CDOs serve separate roles, however these roles are directed at achieving the same goal – to demonstrate the value of data to the organisation by presenting business opportunities which are found from effectively analysing data. Both roles are crucial if companies want to leverage or eliminate their risk around data regulation and stay competitive in their industry. So what is the difference?


The CIO is the more ‘traditional’ executive – this role has been existence for decades now, who looks after the systems and data of the organisation. This person is often the IT champion of all systems, including BI initiatives. This is the person that ultimately should ensure that the BI team is productive, efficient and delivers from the underling data, the information that the business really requires. This role embodies the interests of the business.


This is a much newer role in most organisations where it refers to the executive who looks after insight, analytics and information. When organisations realised that data was the crucial resource underpinning all this, and as a result needed to be managed, this role was invented – but it had a clear focus on data. In this role, the CDO knows every data attribute of the business, where the data comes from, what it should look like once analysed and where/how it can be used. Data quality and data governance are of strong interest to the CDO.

The confusion

Unfortunately the naming of these two roles cause some confusion. If we think about the progression and increase in maturity and value from data to information to knowledge to insight, you would think that the CDO would be responsible for data at the lowest level, including the systems that are used to create and manager that data, while the CIO would be responsible for information, intelligence and insight. Alas, although there are a few very switched-on CIOs out there, who drive the data-driven agenda and ‘get’ the business value of advanced insights, in my opinion few ‘traditional CIOs’ have done the transition in their role. Most ‘old-school’ CIOs still manage the systems and the networkd, while the new CDO drives the insights agenda. According to research, a vast majority of CIOs stated that their current role actually fails to encompass the bulk of responsibilities that a CDO takes on. Understandably so.


I have to say though, if we overlook the confusion between these two roles for a moment, I have certainly seen a distinct pattern whereby many organisations are not benefitting from data-driven decisions – and it may partially be because these roles are not clearly defined or implemented – but in my opinion it is because the value of data and information is not well understood, and data and information is hence not well-managed in those organisations, regardless of by which role name. This lack of proper data management makes it difficult for these organisations to leverage their available data in order to capitalise on data driven insights.

Data and information guide to intelligence

In an effort to understand this notion better, especially the difference between data and information and how these are respectively managed in order to achieve improved intelligence and insights, I highly recommend any individuals and businesses interested in this space to attend the upcoming Data and Information Guide to Intelligence Conference, which is taking place on the 28th & 29th November 2017, in Melbourne, Australia. The event has a great line up of speakers who will be touching on this topic, among others, and it will certainly be interesting to hear if organisations know where the thin line needs to be drawn regarding these two roles. As the chairperson for the conference, I hope to see you there absorbing all the great knowledge about data and information.

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