Perhaps your C-suite is already a bit crowded. The typical hierarchy will include a CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, CMO, CIO, and a few more. Adding another position may not be terribly appealing, but there is one C-suite role every company should consider—chief data and analytics officer (CDO or CDAO).
The CDO is the point person for your data strategy: the leader who oversees how data is collected, managed, and put to use to improve the organization; the person who ensures that wherever there are opportunities to monetize data, those opportunities aren’t being squandered.
The CDO is an essential role in a data-driven organization. Data is the lifeblood of modern business, the fuel that powers digital transformation, and every company should have a data strategy. That being the case, you need a CDO to spearhead and defend that strategy.
Without a data champion, the C-suite can overlook and even ignore data. Gartner’s CDO Agenda Survey for 2023 found that 78% of surveyed data leaders rank organizational data strategy and vision as one of their top three priorities, and 68% are prioritizing initiatives based on alignment to strategic goals. With multiple stakeholders across an organization and the overwhelming amounts of data, CDO is the point person who can help advocate your data initiatives and priorities directly to the CEO.
Here are seven compelling reasons for why your company needs a CDO:
1. CDO establishes a data-driven culture
The C-suite heavily influences the culture at the company, and if data is not part of the C-suite, it isn’t likely to be part of the culture. Anyone can talk about having a data-driven culture, but an actual strategy requires action, not just talk. The CDO drives the implementation and use of platforms, tools, and processes to support a data strategy. The CDO also helps shape, communicate, and implement the data strategy and vision to all stakeholders.
2. CDO inspires the data team
To succeed, leaders need to inspire their teams to be passionate, productive, and willing to work with other stakeholders toward common goals. Leaderless and uninspired data teams are likely to feel misunderstood and such organization-wide efforts as data governance can be hard to implement. The CDO inspires and motivates their team through clear communication, well-defined goals and—when needed—course correction.
3. CDO sets data goals
Collecting and storing data from various sources is not sufficient for a sound data strategy. Data strategy begins and ends with business value. Data teams need to understand the types of data they are handling and where it comes from to properly set KPIs and goals for the data. Without well-defined objectives, spearheaded by your CDO, the insights you expect from your data may never come to light.
4. CDO prevents treating data as an afterthought
Without a CDO, an organization is likely to assign data-related tasks to the CIO or Chief Digital Officer—someone already weighed down with other responsibilities. As a result, the data strategy may not get the focus it deserves, and may even be treated as an afterthought. If this happens, a company cannot truly become data-driven.
5. CDO ties data strategy to ROI
Data-related decisions should be made with ROI in mind. The implementation of modern data architecture technologies—data lakehouses, data mesh, and data fabric—should produce concrete returns on investment to ensure continued support from leadership. Those returns are often measured in business value. The CDO plays a vital role in ensuring data-related investments are delivering results and communicating those results to all relevant stakeholders.
6. CDO takes accountability
As with any other part of the business, accountability is needed in the data team. As the team leader, the CDO is in charge of guiding the team and course-correcting whenever it becomes necessary. As such, the CDO ultimately is the person held accountable for data successes and failures, ensuring their visibility for the C-suite.
7. CDO improves competitiveness
According to Harvard Business Review, 41% of surveyed CDOs define their success by achieving business objectives. This translates to improved agility and competitiveness, something that all organizations with an eye on the future should be striving for.
Even if your C-suite is a bit crowded, your organization needs a CDO to drive the organization’s data strategy and promote a data culture across all the departments. Without a dedicated, accountable data leader, you may still derive insights from the data you collect, store, and analyze. But you will need a CDO to ensure the organization reaches the full potential of those insights. Watch this video to find out how one CDO helped to transform their business.