May 14, 2015
Understanding The Rise Of The Chief Data Officer

Last week, Time Inc. made headlines when it hired its first chief data officer in an attempt to better tap its print and digital audiences.

“I want to reach the right people with relevant messages that resonate,” said Time’s J.T. Kostman. “That’s what big data does.”

For a long time, data was a hidden, complex part of businesses, lacking recognition as a value-adding asset. For years, it was the Head of Data Processing or the Data Processing Manager who was in charge of ensuring best data management practices across an enterprise.

The CIO role emerged in the 1980s, effectively elevating a ‘computer person’ to the executive team for the first time. Even then, the responsibility for overseeing data didn’t have a clear or distinct leader, shared between multiple executive roles including chief marketing officer, chief technology officer and chief information officer.

Today, however, the composition of executive teams reflect the idea that being data-driven matters. The rise of the chief data officer (CDO) sends the message that firms are putting more stock in the value of data and data management across the enterprise.

The chief data officer is responsible for enterprise-wide governance of data information as an asset. The CDO position carries the charge to connect and make sense of an organization’s data by overseeing and implementing a strategy for data mining and analysis.

According to the Big Data Executive Survey: 2014, 43 percent of executive teams now have the position of CDO, up from 19 percent 2 years ago.

So what exactly does a chief data officer do? Here are some of the most common responsibilities:

  • Provide one clear leader over data governance
  • Provide a birds-eye view of how data interacts and affects all aspects of a company
  • Help determine new business opportunities created by data
  • Decide the strategy around data
  • Guide the gathering, organizing and synthesizing of an organization’s data

In the coming years, the CDO role could become an executive position as widely accepted as today’s CMOs, CFO, and COOs.

Who in your organization oversees data management and strategy?