The Rise of the Chief Data Officer

Callum Golds by   01.28.2019   Data Security

You could argue that data in some form has always been an important part of our lives, but never has that been truer than in today’s world. Information technology (IT) and data have become so interlinked that businesses have started to appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to sit next to the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

The creation of this position by so many large organizations clearly acknowledges that data has a measurable value and can be used to help drive profit.

For most of its history, there has been a perception that data didn’t hold any intrinsic value, and as a result data security has largely been ignored. For years, it has been hard to pin down who held responsibility for ensuring best data management. The duty of looking after data could fall to the Data Processing Manager, the CIO or into a grey area of overlapping company IT and operations departments.

Bridging the Gap Between IT and Operations

We are now seeing a few leading firms introducing a new role that bridges the gap between IT and operations and takes full ownership for data management. I give you the Chief Data Officer (CDO).

The adoption of this role has been spurred on by recent large-scale data breaches and the implementation of stricter compliance mandates like the GDPR (and the resulting fines). According to Gartner, 9 out of 10 enterprise businesses are expected to fill this role by the end of 2019; showing an increase in the understanding of the benefit such a role can have.

The rise of the CDO is a testament to the growing importance and realization of the true value of data. But, more than that, the CDO is giving data a permanent seat at the executive table.

The Role of the CDO

For years even the most forward-thinking companies were so focused on managing the amount of data they held/ created and how-to best store it, they neglected to really look at how the information could be used to increase revenue and help reduce costs. It is the role of the CDO to ensure that data’s strategic importance is realized and managed throughout an organization.

Gartner broke down how CDO’s allocate their time to:

  • 27% Risk Mitigation
  • 28% Cost saving efficiency
  • 45% Value creation and/or revenue generation

The role of the CDO is to show their bosses where the next opportunities as well as threats lie, so the division of how CDO spend their time (shown above) makes sense. Historically, variations of the role involved collecting data and ensuring, at the basic level, that the data was protected. While the CDO still does this, the additional responsibilities are what have allowed the position to rise up to become an executive level dedicated position.

To do this, the CDO needs to understand how information can transform a business and be able to spot opportunists to apply it.

NewVantage conducted a survey of the backgrounds of current CDOs and found the following; 34% were external change agents, 32% were company veterans, 15% were data scientists, 13% were executives who have been accountable for the results of data and the finally the last 8% were technology executives.

All these backgrounds relate back to data in some form. Either they have worked directly with or have seen how important data can be in their past roles, but most importantly they are able to tell the story of data. This is absolutely critical because one of the most important functions of the CDO is to effectively communicate with other members of the board when it comes to the importance of data security.

The appointment of the CDO is proof that the importance of data is being realized at the top of the organization. By bringing data security up as a priority in board meetings with the rest of C-Suite, organizations have the opportunity to make real strides and improvements. It is a view that has long been missing from the corporate agenda and one that could lead to genuine strides in reputation and improvement to the bottom line.

If, like many, your organization is also starting to realize the value of data and the importance of data security, you might want to consider implementing a sophisticated data security solution. For your free trial of our data-centric audit and protection solution, LepideAuditor, click here.


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