Over the past several years, the chief data officer went from being a little understood role to one being widely adopted by organizations, especially in regulated industries. Their mandate: To add value to the business through big data opportunities and to remove risk around increasing regulation and data-driven projects.

The demand for data has become so high that the chief information officer simply can’t keep up. In fact, recent Experian Data Quality research found more than two-thirds of CIOs say their current role fails to cover the majority of responsibilities that a CDO would have. That means organizations without a CDO are not effectively harnessing the potential of their data because, among other factors, the CIOs are simply spread too thin. Many of the data innovation projects that a CDO would undertake are not getting done.

With all that motivation, you think CDOs would be experiencing a wide degree of success. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The CDO often lacks a clear mandate from the business, proper organizational support and authority, a solid team to execute on projects and the funding needed to bring fundamental data change to the business.

Here are a few statistics on how CDOs are not getting the support they need:

  • Only 47 percent of CDOs are given a clear remit or objective when they join an organization.
  • Less than half are given the appropriate staffing for their office.
  • Only a quarter are given authority over data across departments.
  • CDOs are given budget and applicable technology just over half the time.

On top of those challenges, the relationship between the CDO and CIO can often be strained. The CDOs we spoke with are much more likely to consider the relationship with the CIO as distant or non-existent, while only 39 percent of CDOs see the relationship as generally positive. On the other hand, CIOs are far more likely to describe the relationship as positive.

It is our belief that the discord happening at some organizations may be the result of unclear expectations or a lapse in communication between these individuals.

As I mentioned before, the CDO often lacks a clear remit. That can create a lot of overlap in the roles and responsibilities between these two offices. CDOs generally view themselves as being responsible for defining a tactical data management program and influencing corporate strategy. They are the so-called guardians of the data. CIOs tend to see themselves as being more analytical and see responsibility for fulfilling requests for analytics and data insight from business users.

However, the offices tend to share joint responsibility for setting and enforcing data governance policies within their organization. There is also large overlap when it comes to purchasing technology for the business. CIOs believe they have sole responsibility for providing platforms and technologies to support analytics, yet CDOs say they are responsible for a range of technology purchases around security, data quality, data governance and data preparation.

All of this overlap puts a strain on these two officers, who are sometimes competing for scarce resources. To improve the relationship, organizations need to address some of the concerns CDOs have raised by ensuring they have a voice in data decisions, proper reporting lines and needed resources. In addition, both groups need to work harder at communicating their priorities and finding solutions to the areas of overlap.

The CDO is a valuable investment and many organizations are doing just that. However, they need to make sure the CDO is properly supported and funded with a clear remit. Otherwise, they could run into too many challenges that will hinder their success and clash with other offices that should be key allies in data-driven success.

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Thomas Schutz

Thomas Schutz

Thomas Schutz is general manager at Experian Data Quality, a data management and analytics firm.