Rise of the CDO…do you need one?

The CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) roles are in a state of flux and starting to evolve pretty significantly. In the past year, the role of CDO or Chief Data Officer started picking up steam. 2014 will bring the CDO role to prominence among the CIO and CMO roles. But what exactly is a CDO and why is it needed now? And where is the role headed especially in consideration of the changes to the CIO and CMO roles?


First, the CDO role is not new. Enterprises have had people filling the role for several years now. The specific function of the role, however, varies greatly…and continues to do so. Organizations tag the CDO with functions ranging from ensuring regulatory compliance to IT system integration. With the advent of Big Data, companies are now looking at the CDO to manage the huge influx of data.

Late last year, Gartner published results from a recent study on the 5 Facts About Chief Data Officers. Namely:

  1. There are over 100 CDOs today (double the number from 2012).
  2. Most reside in Banking, Government and Insurance industries.
  3. 65% reside in the US.
  4. Over 25% of those are in New York or DC.
  5. Over 25% are women (almost twice that of CIOs).


The sheer volume of data in both type and source is growing exponentially. The methods used by a traditional marketing and IT organizations are simply inadequate to keep up. A new perspective is needed. In addition, the CMO and CIO are fully bogged down with existing challenges to streamline and evolve their organizations.

The importance of data to a company is simply too valuable to wait for existing organizations to evolve. There is a half-life to the value of data. This is where the CDO comes in. The CDO can take a business-centric approach to the data without being inhibited by existing challenges. Data spans multiple facets from marketing to product development to customer service and beyond. By leveraging a separate organization that is not biased by the priorities of either the IT or marketing organizations, companies can leverage the true value of the data more readily.

Managing data is less about how to store it on physical drives and more about correlation of data points and trends.


There was a time that I felt that the CDO should be part of the CIOs role. I still feel that way, but it will take time. As outlined above, the CDO role needs to be autonomous from the CIO and CMO roles. However, as each of those roles evolves, so will the CDO role. More specifically, as the CIO role evolves, so will the CDO role.

As IT organizations shift from technology-centric to business-centric, their role with data also evolves. The prevalence of data as a business driver presents a unique challenge and opportunity for IT. Stronger companies will seize this opportunity through the evolution of their CIO and collaboration with the CDO function.


Over time, the CIO & CDO roles become far more inter-related and eventually merge into a single CIO role. However, that will take time to happen. In the meantime, every company should be considering who is responsible for truly managing (and leveraging) their data for business intelligence and growth opportunities. In many cases, that may be the CDO role.

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