CDOs reveal the good, the bad and the ugly parts of the job

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A growing number of organizations are recognizing a need to appoint a chief data officer, but a new study finds that the average length of time on the job is only 24 months for these professionals. This is significantly lower than other C-level executives.

According to the study “The Chief Data Officer: Powering Business Opportunities With Data” from Experian Data Quality, the role of the chief data officer is still very new at most organizations, and the individuals in this role haven’t yet been fully accepted as strategic peers by others in the C-Suite.

"We found this to be a case for a majority of the businesses we surveyed,” the study noted. “In fact, the number of CIOs who believe the CDO role will be established at the C-level is down 16 percent from just two years ago!”

“Is it possible that the management of data is not a big enough strategic priority for a C-level role?,” the study asked. Or is the investment simply too great for some businesses? Whatever the reason, we’re seeing that CDOs today are not being seen at the same level that they once were, despite the obvious benefits.”

While the emergence of the CDO is undeniable, not every role is created equally or set-up for success. CDOs want to make an impact around key business challenges and handling increasing customer expectations through better use of data, however most of them feel they are not able to fully exploit the data resources within the business.

Key findings from the study include:

  • 82 percent of businesses either have a CDO or plan to hire the role.
  • Less than half of CDOs say they are given a clear remit or objective when they join.
  • In 90 percent of cases, the top three areas where CDOs spend their time versus where they want to spend their time varies, suggesting the CDO is not able to focus on the areas they would like.

In light of these findings, the study asked CDOs to share their thoughts on two simple open-ended questions: What is your favorite part about being a CDO?” and “What is the most challenging part of being a CDO?” The following are the key themes that emerged to both questions:

The best part of being a chief data officer

  • Always dealing with latest technology
  • Having control over the utilization of company data for the betterment of the customer
  • Ensuring digital transformation
  • Learning continuously
  • Being responsible for enterprise-wide governance and utilization of information as an asset
  • Leading a team of knowledgeable employees
  • Having the ability to implement different approaches to managing data as an asset

The challenges of being a chief data officer

  • Planning and staying within a budget
  • Keeping up with the evolution of technology
  • Knowing how to interpret information to solve business problems
  • Finding the right people to staff a team
  • Meeting increasing customer expectations
  • Keeping the balance between business and technology
  • Having a lot of responsibility without the possibility for an error
  • Getting bogged down in trivial data cleansing or monitoring tasks
  • Upholding data security
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