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  • Writer's pictureThe Bluemetrix Team

Creating A New Mandate For The Chief Data Officer

How can the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) evolve to create business growth? Start with the framework of ‘Offense’ and ‘Defense’ to generate revenue and transform the business.


The CDO bears responsibility for the firm’s data and information strategy, governance, control, policy development, and exploitation of data assets to create business value. Source – Gartner

Chief Data Officers are a recent addition to the C-level suite and their rise is directly related to the new emphasis and focus companies are placing on their data assets. The role of the CDO is relatively new and evolving rapidly. Companies have come to realise that to ensure their data assets are protected and to maximise the return from assets they require a senior executive to be devoted exclusively to managing and protecting these assets. Even though it is a recent arrival the role of the CDO already appears to be in transition, with a shift in focus from risk and regulatory issues to activities that support business growth.

The impetus behind the role of the CDO is continuing: a recent survey by Gartner (Third Gartner CDO Survey – How Chief Data Officers are Driving Business Impact, December 2017) found that the adoption of this role is rising globally. The number of organisations implementing an office of CDO also rose year on year, with 47% reporting that an office of the CDO was implemented in 2017, compared with 23% in 2016.

Gartner predicts that by 2019, 90% of large organisations will have a Chief Data Officer.

We are also seeing companies replacing other roles in favour of a new CDO role. In January 2018 Easyjet replaced the CMO role with a CDO role, which they said, “will give greater focus and weight to the airlines use of data to improve our customer proposition, drive revenue, reduce cost and improve operational reliability”.

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The Role of the Chief Data Officer

Chief Data Officers have an important job where data is the currency of opportunity. A survey commissioned by PWC to understand the factors driving the growth of the CDO role and how their mandate is evolving was very clear: the scope of many CDOs has expanded from setting policy and rolling out of foundational data management capabilities to owning platforms and actual oversight and execution of data programs. Despite this expansion in the CDO’s remit to new areas respondents are still in the process of implementing foundational data management capabilities. However, PWC found there is a strong need to obtain buy in and understanding of the CDO role across enterprise and align the role with and support business strategy.

CDO’s are the custodians of an organisation’s information assets, they must use this information as a catalyst for change, to automate business processes, understand and develop better relationships with stakeholders, and ultimately capture strategic value from data and deliver high-impact business outcomes.

The role is an enterprise wide role with responsibility for developing a vision and strategy around the protection and use of a company’s data assets. They are responsible for executing this vision and strategy. This means that amongst other things they are responsible for the following:

The office of the CDO is a multi-disciplinary office with professionals and expertise drawn from sectors as diverse as Compliance and IT. It is not unusual to see professionals with the following expertise in the office: Privacy & Policy Experts, Data Stewards, Data Analysts, Data Scientists, Information Architects, etc.

Creating a new mandate for the Chief Data Officer

The remit of the CDO is very broad but is changing its focus rapidly. Valerie Logan, Research Director at Gartner, says: ‘while the early crop of CDOs was focused on data governance, data quality and regulatory drivers, today’s CDOs are now also delivering tangible business value and enabling a data-driven culture’.

Indeed, the latest piece of research from PWC states clearly that the scope of many CDOs has expanded from setting policy and rolling out of foundational data management capabilities to owning platforms and actual oversight and execution of data programs.

What we are now seeing is an increased maturity in the CDO role, with a change in focus from a Defensive position where the focus was on compliance, security and regulations, to an Offensive position with an increased focus on working the data assets and generating new revenue and opportunities for the business.

It is this distinction between ‘Offensive’ and ‘Defensive’ that is set to become the defining characteristic of the role of the Chief Data Officer.

The use of the ‘Offensive’ and ‘Defensive’ approach means that CDOs can create a framework for understanding, obtain buy-in for their role and quickly align outcomes with business strategy.

Rethinking how CDO’s carry out their role: Defensive Vs Offensive

In the very early stages of creating their data strategy, a Defensive Strategy meant that the CDO was concerned primarily with preventing the risk of damage occurring in the business because of a loss or inappropriate use of Data within the business.

However, this definition is too narrow: today the CDO’s Defensive Strategy means focusing on the following: