Big data boom leads to the rise of the Chief Data Officer

There is an urgent need for newly skilled people like chief data officers if organisations are to take advantage of innovation such as big data, analysts say.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

CIOs are beginning to find that they have to step aside for the new kid on the block — the CDO or Chief Data Officer.

According to analyst Gartner, by the end of this year 17 percent of organisations will have hired this latest addition to the management alphabet soup, and that will be just the start. The reason for this, Gartner said is the growth of big data and its related technologies.

This growth means that the CIOs' role is just too big, according to Gartner, and should be split. The growth of big data has made it logical to create the role of CDO and organisations need to understand that the role is at least as important, if not more important, than that of CIO.

The creation of the role may do something to address the gender imbalance in IT as well: more than 25 percent of the CDOs surveyed by Gartner are women. This is more than double the number of women who are currently CIOs (13 percent).

"The CIO role is overloaded with expectations and responsibilities," said Gartner senior analyst Debra Logan.

"CIOs are expected to have hands-on experience in technology, leading change management programmes and project management."

If that's not enough they also have "to demonstrate leadership skills, an ability to apply innovative thinking to issues in their industry, financial and budgeting skills and people management skills".

But one of the real problem areas is often unstated, Logan believes. "Many CIOs are also expected, explicitly or implicitly, to manage data and information," she said.

The problem is that the backgrounds of many, if not most, of today's CIOs does not include data management expertise nor does it include experience in creating information strategies. And furthermore, according to Gartner's own analysis of multiple CIO surveys, "the management of data as a separate discipline is not a top CIO concern".

The Gartner research found that CDOs generally come from one of three industries — banking, insurance or government — but other industries are beginning to be represented, such as advertising. The majority of CDO posts are currently in the US, although some are appearing in the UK.

Gartner also stressed that the CDOs do not "own" the data but coordinates the use of data in other places, such as a CFO, who owns a few financial processes such as consolidation and treasury, but coordinates the use of capital throughout the organisation.

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