Securing an executive chair for the CDO


My previous blog post clearly established that the Chief Data Officer (CDO) should be sitting at the leadership table of any business wanting to truly capitalise on their data assets. But getting this right is no easy task and you are likely wondering how CIOs can make a case for the CDO role – especially within smaller or medium size businesses who have other important aspects to focus with regards to investment.

A Gartner post I recently came across, from a gentleman within the industry, Alan D. Duncan (whom I’ve had the pleasure to share the stage with here in Australia and for whom I hold the utmost respect), notes that the CDO role is gaining traction and maturity, with Gartner estimating that there are approximately 5 500 CDOs (and equivalents) globally. In fact, Gartner believes that it is also one of the fastest-growing corporate executive roles.

However, this alone is not going to convince the executive board to create such a role internally. The executives are going to want tangible evidence, that goes beyond supporting data as an asset. And while my previous blog notes some important benefits of having the CDO form part of the executive team, the team won’t see the value unless it is driven within the business culture.

Building a data driven business or reshaping a business to be data ‘fit’

If data is not the main key metric driving a business, its technology decisions and processes forward in the modern, digital world, the CIO will have a tough time convincing the board of the need for the CDO role. While driving or developing a data-driven culture can take some time, it is a massive step towards placing the CDO role discussion on the executive agenda. As such, medium sized business wanting to gain a competitive advantage or remain viable in the years to come should take a step back and implement the necessary processes to start building a business culture centred around data.

Defining clear responsibilities mapped back to business ROI and making revenue earnings a KPI

There are many areas a CDO can add value, yet if focus is not aimed towards specific goals linked to ROI for the business, the value could possibly be diluted. From the onset, the CDO role should be mapped out against certain attainable aspects and these should be linked back to the business’s objectives, current and future strategy.

Over and above this, getting the executive team’s buy in will mean presenting a case where the CDO is KPI’d against generating revenue. Over and above the benefits of data management, regulation and compliance support (mentioned in my previous post), the CIO must present how the CDO can be used to turn business information into tangible profit.

Concluding remark

With only 5 500 CDOs globally, there is certainly scope to increase this number dramatically and CIOs who jump onto this now, make a strong case and succeed in getting the CDO a chair at the executive table, will leapfrog competitors and build a sustainable data driven business.

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