Like a digital wildfire spreading across the globe, more companies and organizations continue to hire or promote executives into newly created chief data officer (CDO) positions. But that doesn't mean it's quick work to grab the CDO title.

A case in point: The United Kingdom named Mike Bracken as its CDO this week. But take a look at Bracken's background -- deep with digital technology and data expertise -- and it's clear he's been a CDO-in-waiting for quite some time.

The Long and Winding Road

Bracken joined the UK's Cabinet Office in 2011 as executive director of digital. He focused on creating a Government Digital Service that now includes DirectGov, BusinessLink, Innovations, Digital Policy, Digital Engagement and more.

Earlier, he was director at a UK technology services company. He also played a key role in launching -- basically, setting the stage for an open data government push. In the U.S., the Obama administration launched a somewhat similar open data push in 2009.

Decades in the Making

Poke around at additional CDO profiles -- like Catalina's Dak Liyanearachchi and Wunderman's Gary S. Laben -- and you'll find deep experience with data-driven decision making. While Liyanearachchi and Laben moved into their respective CDO roles this week, Liyanearacchi has been a data hound for more than a decade, and Laben has worked in and around information marketing for a quarter century.

Bottom line: CDOs seem to be overnight sensations. But navigating your way into the CDO seat often requires decades of data experience.

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