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The rise of the chief digital officer

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The race to drive competitive advantage and improved efficiency through better use of information assets is leading to a sharp rise in the number of chief data officers (CDOs). As a result, Gartner predicts that 90% of large companies will have a CDO role by the end of 2019.
“Business leaders are starting to grasp the huge potential of digital business, and demanding a better return on their organisations’ information assets and use of analytics,” says Mario Faria, research vice president at Gartner. “It’s a logical step to create an executive position — the CDO — to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from industrial-scale collection and harnessing of data.”
CDOs will face a number of challenges, to the extent that only 50% will be successful by the end of 2019. One challenge is that the role will be new in most organisations and most new CDOs will be learning on the job. They will have the difficult task of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that tie the activities of their team to measurable business outcomes.
“With the explosion of datasets everywhere, an important task is determining which information can add business value, drive efficiency or improve risk management,” said Mr Faria. “The CDO’s role will raise expectations of better results from an enterprise information management strategy, with stakeholders wanting a clear idea of the exact mechanics of making success a reality.”
The confluence of high expectations and limited knowledge around information management by business users can make it difficult for CDOs to get the budget and commitment from the business they need to make their plans a success. “This raises a political aspect to the role — building trust and relationships in the organisation will be important to achieving success,” adds Faria.
Many CDOs already report high levels of change resistance, particularly from the IT department, over the control of information assets and their governance. Successful CDOs, however, are doing a great job of working with the CIO to lead change and overcome resistance.
Gartner has six recommendations for new CDOs to help them overcome common challenges:
* Create an enterprise information management strategy based on the organization’s business strategy and predominant value discipline.
* Work tirelessly to build trust with various business stakeholders, especially the CIO.
* Educate senior leaders and peers about the role that data and information play in overall business success.
* Establish baselines on information governance and data monetisation from which progress can be measured.
* Tie quantifiable information metrics to quantifiable business key performance indicators to demonstrate tangible success.
* Adopt formal information asset measures and share them with the organisation.
“It’s important to account for the soft skills needed in the CDO role, whether you are applying or hiring for the position,” says Faria. “The success of a CDO will to a large extent depend on his or her ability to lead the change as well as gain the enthusiasm, support and resources of business leaders and other key business units.”