The ranks of the chief data officer are rapidly increasing, to the tune of a 150 percent increase in2015. Newly appointed and newly hired CDOs are understandably looking for advice on how to best organize their operations.

In response, research firm Gartner Inc. has identified four design principles that CDOs should apply when designing their role and reporting structure. There is no “one right way” to organize the CDO office, but certain principles should always apply.

"The organizational design of the office of the CDO must clearly take account of the role that data is expected to play in the organization," says Mario Faria, research vice president at Gartner. "Most CDOs, however, are new to the role and often have little experience with managing large teams or designing and changing organizational structures."

The fact that most CDOs are still new in the role is borne out by the sheer numbers that assumed their role in just the past year. According to Gartner, the CDO ranks increased from 400 in 2014 to 1,000 in 2015.

So how should the new CDO best set up shop?

"There's no one correct way to design a CDO office — its structure and strength depends on how it is used by the evolving organization," says Faria. "In Gartner's model, the organizational design depends on four possible ways to organize and exploit the benefits of data within the business."

Here’s how Gartner breaks down the four organizational designs:

CDO Organization as an Engine Room

“The office of the CDO delivers operational data services that are focused on the needs of the internal users. It succeeds by monitoring any data market developments and building expertise in data asset usage, information management and analytics.”

Everyone's CDO Organization

“The office of the CDO focuses on the needs of the internal users. But there is a strong push for data assets to be used aggressively by business leaders and individual contributors to break through traditional perimeters of business, and to drive transformation and new digital business models across the organization.”

CDO Organization as a Business Service Provider

“The office of the CDO delivers operational data services that are used by both internal and external users. The activities are expanded and integrated into a shared-service organization that runs like a business.”

CDO Organization Is the Business

“Information is one of the explicit external offerings of the organization or is inseparable from the product line. The office of the CDO delivers internal and external data services that drive business transformation and differentiation.”

"The CDO organizational design is about people," Faria stresses. "It is easy enough to think about what kind of CDO an organization needs in order to meet its business goals, but it can be harder to put in place the right people to deliver on that structure. It's vital CDOs think critically about what skills and behaviors will be required by the office of the CDO in the short, medium and long term."

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