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The four types of chief data officer …

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The rapid adoption of the chief data officer (CDO) role — from 400 in 2014 to 1 000 in 2015 — raises important questions about the structure and positioning of the office of the CDO in organizations. There are four organizational design principles that CDOs should apply when designing their office, according to Gartner.

“The organisational design of the office of the CDO must clearly take account of the role that data is expected to play in the organization,” says Mario Faria, research vice-president at Gartner. “Most CDOs, however, are new to the role and often have little experience with managing large teams or designing and changing organisational structures.”

To help CDOs and other business leaders meet the needs of their organization and structure the office of the CDO appropriately, Gartner identified four value propositions for the office of the CDO.

“There’s no one correct way to design a CDO office — its structure and strength depends on how it is used by the evolving organization,” says Faria. “In Gartner’s model, the organisational design depends on four possible ways to organize and exploit the benefits of data within the business.” Figure 1 shows these four approaches.

* CDO organisation as an engine room: The office of the CDO delivers operational data services that are focused on the needs of the internal users. It succeeds by monitoring any data market developments and building expertise in data asset usage, information management and analytics.

* Everyone’s CDO organisation: The office of the CDO focuses on the needs of the internal users. But there is a strong push for data assets to be used aggressively by business leaders and individual contributors to break through traditional perimeters of business, and to drive transformation and new digital business models across the organisation.

* CDO organisation as a business service provider: The office of the CDO delivers operational data services that are used by both internal and external users. The activities are expanded and integrated into a shared-service organisation that runs like a business.

* CDO organisation is the business: Information is one of the explicit external offerings of the organization or is inseparable from the product line. The office of the CDO delivers internal and external data services that drive business transformation and differentiation.

“The CDO organisational design is about people,” says Faria. “It is easy enough to think about what kind of CDO an organization needs in order to meet its business goals, but it can be harder to put in place the right people to deliver on that structure. It’s vital CDOs think critically about what skills and behaviours will be required by the office of the CDO in the short, medium and long term.”