The new hero of big data and analytics: The Chief Data Officer

Data needs a leader. As the new natural resource of the twenty-first century, data has the power to transform industries and business models; but it equally has the power to overwhelm systems and stymie growth.

As executives witness data’s proven impact on performance and innovation and recognize its strategic significance, many are wondering: Who should be taking care of the data function? Increasingly, organizations are answering that question by creating the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role.

As they realize the growing need for a leader whose primary role is to understand and advocate on behalf of data, leading organizations across industries around the globe are appointing Chief Data Officers to deliver data-driven growth and innovation that matters.

In an expert perspective, we define the emerging role of the CDO based on our collective experience working with clients worldwide and interviews with more than a dozen CDOs from early-adopter organizations. These CDOs share their on-the-ground experience with defining a new C-level role, as well as the challenges they have overcome along the way.

To define the business scenarios in which a CDO is needed, we identify five focal areas that are driving the creation of a new senior management position that focuses exclusively on the vision and strategy surrounding the use of data within an organization. In addition, we explore the skills required for success as a CDO – skills which are often highly specialized, difficult to acquire and expected to be in short supply for the foreseeable future. Based on our observations and interviews, we outline the key characteristics of both the individual and the office of the CDO, along with key responsibilities. We also offer concrete steps organizations can take today to remain competitive in the digitized twenty-first century.

Each day data is left adrift and leaderless, opportunities to drive revenue growth, engage more effectively with customers and optimize process efficiencies are missed. We are indeed just at the beginning of a big data boom that is undeniable, irreversible and loaded with opportunity for organizations that transform themselves with data-driven decisions. And the Chief Data Officer position is a crucial element in helping organizations realize and manage the full value of their information assets.

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