CDO role on the rise, but many lack clear mission, resources

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A growing number of organizations are creating the role of chief data officer, but in many cases the appointed individual lacks clearly defined responsibilities or adequate resources and budget.

That is among the findings of a new study on the CDO role by Experian entitled “The Chief Data Officer: Powering Business Opportunities With Data.” The firm first conducted a study on the emerging CDO role several years ago, and this report was intended to be a follow-up to that study.

“Today, we are finding that CDOs are indeed facing increased pressure to provide data faster to the business for analytics. Yet, while much of what we predicted holds true today, what we’ve since learned since that time is that the CDO role is not always set up for success,” explains Thomas Schutz, senior vice president and general manager of Experian Data Quality. “In fact, nearly half of the CDOs we spoke with entered their position with no clear remit or responsibilities with few resources and constrained budgets.”

The CDO role is new to many organizations, Schutz acknowledges. But “we see disparities in how CDOs are allocating their time and resources; many of them are focusing on cost-savings projects, rather than on data innovation. Furthermore, we learned that the reporting lines for CDOs can vary greatly between organizations, which in many cases mean that they do not sit with the rest of the C-suite.”

The IT managers and CDOs interviewed for the study were in agreement on one thing; nearly all say that business stakeholders are demanding more access to data than ever before. But half of those interviewed also say they are not exploiting the data they hold to its full potential.

There is good news here: a majority of CDOs do believe they are adding value to the organization. Further, “organizations without a CDO are not effectively harnessing the potential of their data because, among other things, CIOs are simply spread too thin. In fact, many of the data innovation projects that a CDO would undertake are not getting done,” the study says.

So what are the incentives for an organization appointing a chief data officer? The study reports the following reasons cited by survey participants:

  • 48 percent say to capitalize on big data opportunities
  • 40 percent say to create a competitive advantage
  • 39 percent say to de-risk data-driven projects
  • 32 percent say to decentralize data management
  • 28 percent say due to increasing regulation or governance

The study also asked what the greatest barriers to success with exploiting data are. CDOs cited the following:

  • 53 percent say the ability to access data
  • 47 percent say limited budgets
  • 41 percent say the volume of data
  • 41 percent say a lack of strategy
  • 39 percent say a lack of skills within the staff
  • 37 percent say the inability to use data for business intelligence
  • 31 percent say quantifying impacts of data quality issues
  • 24 percent say the variety of data
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