The rise of the Chief Data Officer: Now directly reporting to the CEO

Nov 17, 2015 | Digital marketing skills, Online advertising, Search engine marketing

With a flood of consumer data now available to brands, there has emerged a new role: the Chief Data Officer (CDO). New research looks at how businesses are transforming their decision making processes, with big data at the centre. According to the latest report from Experian Data Quality (EDQ), the second part of a programme […]

With a flood of consumer data now available to brands, there has emerged a new role: the Chief Data Officer (CDO). New research looks at how businesses are transforming their decision making processes, with big data at the centre.


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According to the latest report from Experian Data Quality (EDQ), the second part of a programme of research dedicated to this area, these individuals are leading the way as businesses look to gain previously unseen insights and value from data.
These people are being recruited from a broad range of industry backgrounds, with a variety of skill sets.
Key findings:
• 70% of Chief Data Officers now report directly to CEOs
• 94% do not consider technical skills as important for the role
• Regulatory experience and strong communications skills seen as more essential
With 70% of Chief Data Officers now reporting directly to CEOs, this new ‘data force’ is driving innovation and differentiation, prompting a revolution of existing business models, improving communication with audiences and finding new efficiencies.
The report titled ‘Rise of the Data Force’ is the second part of a programme of research dedicated to this area and has brought together the opinions of more than 40 CDO’s and senior business executives.
Previous research from Experian found that 92% of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) were calling out for a CDO role within their organisation, due to the increased pressure put upon the importance of data management. This report shows that this role is on the rise throughout various organisations who are looking to gain previously unseen insights and value from data.
These people are being recruited from a broad range of industry backgrounds, with a variety of skill sets.
Breakdown of desired skills for a Chief Data Officer:
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As the CDO role continues to increase in prominence, Experian Data Quality carried out further research in order to gain a deeper understanding about how both CDOs and other business leaders are managing the ‘tsunami of data’ that they are facing.
Boris Huard, Managing Director, Experian Data Quality UK, said: “What seems to be critical to a CDO’s success is the combination of change management and communication skills, tied in with the ability to identify a progressive roadmap that influences not only short term improvement in data quality, but also enables evolution and disruption of business models.
“There’s no doubt that the industry is moving forward at pace, and there is apparently no need for anyone to evangelise about the importance of data at boardroom level, everyone gets it. CDOs have an exciting role to play to shape the future of their organisation, with rapidly advancing technology and digitalisation making the appointment of a “Data Tsar”, in some form or another, absolutely essential.”
The research identified four key trends influencing and driving the CDO role:
• Anatomy of a CDO
CDOs should be innovators and communicators who can drive change throughout an organisation, whilst prioritising data governance. Technical skills were not considered important by 94% of participants and CDOs are being recruited from a variety of industry backgrounds, however an inspirational leader needs to have proven C-level experience and be business-driven.
• Technology
Ever advancing technology and continued increases in data volumes are redefining architecture ownership, making the role of data more prominent. The adoption of cloud-based solutions has shifted focus away from IT and architecture to data migration and change management.
Therefore organisations are focusing more on data accuracy which is becoming a higher priority.
• Digitalisation
Growing digital empowerment is driving differentiation and innovation to find new business models and revenue streams amongst organisations. This shift to digital requires a leader to manage data and fully embrace the possibilities it brings. CDOs must translate data into value for the business and weave it into the fabric of an organisation.
• Regulation and governance
CDOs must confront the ethical challenge as managing data comes with increased responsibility. Regulation is viewed as an opportunity that is driving requirement for a CDO role. Data owners are aware that there is an ‘ethical moral code of conduct’ for the way data should be used and handled and the emergence of “Chief Ethics Officer” is a response to this.
The ‘Rise of the data force’ report, produced in association with Spencer Stuart, executive search consulting firm, brings together the opinions of more than 40 Chief Data Officers and senior business executives and shows how a new ‘data force’ is ambitiously driving change in many blue-chip, multi-nationals across Europe.
Here is a snapshot of their views:
“The CDO needs to be technically aware to avoid relying on others to understand the architecture that is being delivered to support your requirement. This understanding helps the CDO have more tactical conversations.” Hany Choueiri, CDO, Bank of England
“The role of the CDO is to use data to drive value across the business, working transversally to embed this. It’s how the CDO wires data into the business to create value – I think that’s the key to unlocking data and making it work.” Steve Sacks, Chief Customer Officer, Burberry
“The CDO must have the hierarchical clout required to drive change and encourage people to adopt a data-driven approach.” Lt. Col Michael Servaes, CDO, Ministry of Defence
“The role of the CDO is evolving fast. In one type of organisation compliance and regulation may lie behind the creation of the role, whereas in another the CDO is there as a response to business model disruption and the need to drive innovation.” Emanuela Aureli, Consultant, Spencer Stuart
The ‘Rise of the data force’ follows on from the ‘Dawn of the CDO’ report, released last year, which outlined the pressures on current CIOs to deliver on the importance of data and how the role of the CDO was becoming more important in a data-driven world.
View the full report here (registration required)

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