CDO Is Rising; Is CIO Doing Something About It?

by CXOtoday News Desk    Aug 12, 2015


The value of data has increased dramatically in the enterprise, highlighting on the importance of chief data officer (CDO)’s role, which many businesses have ignored so far. But is it going to be dangerous for the CIO. The question has come up in tech research several times in the past, but a recent study by Experian further warns its time CIOs do something about it.

The Experian study, which interviewed more than 250 CIOs and CDOs from large organizations, found that data is a critical asset that has been largely untapped. Four out of five organizations surveyed see data as a valuable asset that is not being fully exploited within their organization. To create ownership of that area, the role of the CDO is growing among businesses.

While a vast majority (95%) of CIOs think data is changing the way their organization does business, in reality very few are working in this area. Among organizations without a CDO, 63% would like to see the role created in the future. The report says creation of the CDO role is being driven by three main factors: a need for a consistent approach to “de-risk” data driven projects, rising costs due to poor data quality, and increasing regulations.

Some believe the CIO position is likely to disappear over the next 10 years, with responsibility accruing to the emerging role of Chief Data Officers (CDO), as CIO of a leading healthcare firm. James Noga, VP and CIO of Partners HealthCare, echoed this sentiment at the MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium earlier this year

He sees that the CIO will have less responsibility for managing infrastructure complexities as more of those functions move to the cloud. Consequently, he believes that unless the CIO focuses on optimizing the business such as offering Lean and Six Sigma practices, his position will be overpowered by the CDO in the coming days.

What CIOs can do?

Gartner too sees 25 percent or more organizations will have a CDO by 2017. However the research firm opines that Digital leadership is not a replacement or substitute for IT leadership; instead it is an adaptation of business leadership to a digital context. There are several ways new-age CIOs can excel.

Read more: Is CDO the new member in the C-suite?

“CIOs do not own the CDO’s responsibilities. CIOs and CDOs should have distinct and separate roles in the digital era, and they will need different skills and capabilities.” says Debra Logan, vice president and Gartner researcher. “The CDO is a peer of the CIO, but practises a different discipline…The CDO also becomes an advocate of information, not just a governor of it. Increasingly, successful information governance is about advocating the use of information as a source of value, not just controlling and monitoring it,” Logan adds.

CIO and the CDO both have a distinct identity, though the combined force can be extremely powerful believe experts. The challenge for CIOs is to address non-IT issues from a business strategy perspective. Noga recommends that CIO’s actively engage senior leadership, and may even have to push some doors open as opposed to waiting for doors to be opened for them.

Similarly, others believe rather than seeing this transition as a threat, CIO’s should see it as an opportunity for additional influence and visibility.  In other words they believe that CIOs may retain the title, but they need to get involved in the business operation.

“While business leaders finally are learning that to gain valuable insights from information, they need to create a culture around data,” Thomas Schutz, senior VP and GM of Experian Data Quality, said in a statement. “Businesses need evangelists for data and individuals with the intelligence to not only ensure information assets are governed, accurate, accessible and complete, but also promote the use of data for good across the business.”