INSIGHT: Chief Data or Chief Digital Officer? Does it matter?

"I would now re-write the scope and case for the role of the CDO as follows..."

I explored the role of the CDO some time ago, proposing that the case and scope of the work for the CDO, or the office of the CDO, spans:

Information (and analytic):

• governance

• risk mitigation

• compliance

• innovation

• (business) value

Over the last few months this scope has basically been re-affirmed. However, not all CDO’s actually have this scope as part of their role description.

Most CDO’s actually seem to start with only a limited scope - perhaps compliance, risk management, or analytics.

As such, I have two further “conclusions” that warrant a revision in terminology. These are still being researched so you should consider the following as exploratory (though its also my personal view too).

I would now re-write the scope and case for the role of the CDO as follows:

• business innovation and value

• governance

• analytic

• risk mitigation

• compliance

Note that the context is required: this is all related to information. So I don’t meant to imply that all things governance are under the purview of the CDO - only information governance.

Risk mitigation might also remain under the purview of the chief risk officer, but information risk and its mitigation is a specialty that warrants its own sets of eyes in some environments.

The last twist is in the name of the chief data officer.

For some organisations the focus is on customer understanding, customer 360, or even digital first, strategies.

These typically are outward facing and organised around how the customer, or prospect, interacts and is influenced by all the information around them.

As a potential supplier, it makes sense that those suppliers that understand most about customers’ and their needs will probably do better than those that don’t.

The title of this role in organisations today is pretty much sold on Chief Digital Officer. This was a hot new emerging role a couple of years ago, and there are many more of them around today.

These individuals are not normally charged to look after information governance: if they were charged with fulfilment, they would want to “own” information governance.

Most are not charged with risk mitigation or compliance, but if information related to customers was regulated, they would want that scope too.

So the reality is that chief digital officer is most likely to be a short term role that eventually morphs into the broader chief data officer role.

Lastly, you can see how I changed the use of the term “analytic”. Initially this was part of the context, not the scope.

I changed that so analytic is now an explicit part of the scope - the context remains ‘all things information’ which should imply analytic as a form of information.

The difference is that we have seen the growth of the name, Chief Analytic Officer. This name seems appropriate when the organisation is focused more on the narrower use of information to power analytics and business intelligence.

This role might have evolved from the BI lead role - and as such - it didn’t really focus on the operational use of information within information risk, or compliance, or information innovation.

The role tended to focus on the downstream use of information to guide decision making that supported those outcomes. So there is a clear relationship.

So in summary it seems that chief analytic and chief data officer are two names that are in vogue today for different reasons.

And that the same time, these might be somewhat short-lived names that, over time, may/should coalesce under the broader role of chief data officer.

Now, if only we can sort all this out with respect to the role of CIO.

By Andrew White - Research Analyst, Gartner

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