Will CDO Make The CIO Role Disappear?

by Sohini Bagchi    Aug 04, 2014


The CIO position is likely to disappear over the next 10 years, with responsibility accruing to the emerging role of Chief Data Officers (CDO), according to the CIO of a leading healthcare firm. James Noga, VP and CIO of Partners HealthCare, who says these words at the MIT Chief Data Officer Symposium clarifies 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.

In the changing business and technology landscape, many others in the industry also echo similar sentiments. With enterprises striving to manage data from various sources today – from social media, internet of things, inexpensive sensors and many more, experts believe enterprise data demands to be managed with the same diligence just like other enterprise assets to gain business insight.

Championing the Data

While many organizations are increasingly realizing this, very few businesses, however, are equipped to methodically exploit this plethora of data types and translate that knowledge into meaningful business insight. Even fewer have the dedicated thought leaders to effectively manage their information and data assets. Experts believe that companies need a CDO who can be the champion of enterprise data and can provide the leadership required to effectively manage data assets.

In a recent report, Gartner mentions firms that have adopted information as strategy generally have in place a CDO (or a CIO) who handles information policy, issues pertaining to new information acquisition or for information asset business exploitation. However, the number is very less with 10 percent of today’s enterprises having a ‘real’ information strategy in place. “One of the biggest challenges organizations face is identifying who in the organization is ultimately responsible for managing all this information”, Partha Iyengar, country manager for Research, India at Gartner notes.

It has been observed that most CIOs do not take the responsibility on information policy. Therefore it is no surprise that enterprises will increasingly see the emergence of CDOs as a new member in the C-suite – to fill this gap, he says.

The CDO’s position arose in response to the demands created by a massive increase in the amount of data that is generated and collected by corporations, an ongoing trend sometimes referred to as big data. Shawn Banerji, MD of the executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, predicts that 50% of all Fortune 500 companies will have CDOs by 2015, up from 5% in 2012. 

Threat to the CIO role

While the rise of the CDO role may be a potential threat to the CIO’s role, the latter, especially those belonging to the modern school can excel in the new positions.

 “In order to be effective, the CDO needs to have the full backing of his C-suite counterparts and should be provided the authority and resources to execute strategic data initiatives. The CDO must also possess a particular blend of technical skills, business acumen and political savvy too, in order to have a direct impact on risk management, business performance and long-term strategy,” mentions Rich Cohen, an eminent researcher at Deloitte in his recent blog post. However, he also recommends that before instituting a CDO function (even if the CIO is recruited for the function), companies should set clear enterprise data management objectives in the context of a larger business problem.

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, most 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.