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CDO to CEO: Chief data officers climbing the C-Suite ladder, Gartner says

11 Nov 2016

Chief data officers are set to move up the C-Suite chain, with new research from Gartner predicting 15% of CDOs will move to CEO, COO or CMO level by 2020.

The analyst firm’s second annual CDO survey found that early adopters of the CDO role and the office of the CDO (OCDO) are pioneering a new organisational function, to go alongside IT, business operations, HR and finance.

Debra Logan, vice president and Gartner Fellow, says organisations that have made the strategic decision to introduce the CDO role are looking to get as much new value as possible from this position.

According to survey, 37% of CDOs say they report directly to the CEO.

“CDOs are adding to the competitiveness of their companies by contributing to strategic planning and decision making, and by leading digital business initiatives,” says Logan.

As a result, Gartner predicts that, by 2020, 15% of successful CDOs will move into CEO, COO, CMO or other C-level positions.

"The office of the CDO is being established as an operational department with the appropriate staffing, budget and responsibilities," Logan says.

"Fifty-four percent of the organisations we surveyed said that their OCDO was fully or partially implemented, with a further 20% already exploring, planning to explore or planning to implement an OCDO within the next year,” she explains.

“Only 19% said they are unlikely to implement an ODCO."

According to the survey, the main business objectives of the OCDO are to increase customer intimacy (62%), competitive advantage (60%) and efficiency (54%). Respondents said that the main organisation-wide responsibilities are oversight of analytics initiatives (69%) and data governance (68%). Next come responsibilities for defining the analytics strategy for the organisation and ensuring information reliability and value (64% each).

Jamie Popkin, Gartner vice president and Gartner Fellow, says as the use of data and analytics continues to rise, data and analytics-related crises will continue to plague businesses that fail to implement the CDO role and an OCDO.

"While only 27% of those surveyed identified a specific data or analytics-related crisis or problem as their reason for creating the CDO role, some of the other identified objectives point to this," he says.

“Twenty-four percent of the respondents said that the board of directors wanted the role. Whatever prompted a high degree of board-level involvement in the creation of the new operational function must have had a major operational impact, or been thought likely to have such an impact in future,” Popkin explains.

“The board's involvement, together with the responses pointing to a specific crisis or problem, and the 41% of respondents who said that the CEO or CFO wanted the role, makes it safe to assume that this was a major strategic decision that affected business operating models."

CDOs Are Responsible for Creating and Integrating Enterprise Data and Analytics Capabilities

The OCDO accommodates a wide range of roles emphasising data and information management, data quality, business analytics and information architecture.

"Most CDOs said that their role will focus on two key responsibilities," says Mario Faria, a managing vice president at Gartner.

"Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said they are acting as a champion or change agent in leading the organisational changes required to create and sustain enterprise data and analytics capabilities,” he says.

“Sixty-one percent are leading the effort to ensure that data and analytics are integrated into the business strategy and roadmap."

The CDO's Relationship With IT Leaders

According to the survey. most respondents said they have developed positive working relationships with IT leaders.

"While most early holders of the CDO role said they treat the CIO as an ally or partner (62%), the relationship between the CDO and the CIO will remain crucial," says Popkin. "Strategy development, decision-making power and funding will be sources of contention between IT leaders and the OCDO as the role of the CDO becomes more broadly established."

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