Home Strategy Chief data officers rising in influence as digital transformation grows: Gartner

Chief data officers rising in influence as digital transformation grows: Gartner

The role of chief data officer is gaining traction in organisations and proving to be a linchpin of digital business transformation, according to a new report.

According to a new survey by Gartner, support for the CDO role and business function is rising globally, with a steady increase over 2016 (57% in 2017 compared with 50% in 2016) – and a majority of survey respondents reported holding the formal title of CDO.

"While the early crop of CDOs was focused on data governance, data quality and regulatory drivers, today's CDOs are now also delivering tangible business value, and enabling a data-driven culture," said Valerie Logan, research director at Gartner.

"Aligned with this shift in focus, the survey also showed that for the first time, more than half of CDOs now report directly to a top business leader such as the chief executive, chief operatingofficer, chief financial officer, president/owner or board/shareholders. By 2021, the office of the CDO will be seen as a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75% of large enterprises."

The survey also revealed that the number of organisations implementing an Office of the CDO also rose since last year, with 47% implemented (either formally or informally) in 2017, compared with 23% fully implemented in 2016.

"The steady maturation of the office of the CDO underlines the acceptance and broader understanding of the role and recognises the impact and value CDOs worldwide are providing," said Michael Moran, another research director at Gartner.

"The addition of new talent for increasing responsibilities, growing budgets and increasing positive engagement across the C-suite illustrate how central the role of CDO is becoming to more and more organisations."

Gartner also reports that budgets are on the rise, with respondents to the 2017 survey reporting an average CDO office budget of US$8 million, representing a 23% increase from the average of US$6.5 million reported in 2016.

And 15% of respondents report budgets of more than US$20 million, contrasting with 7% last year.

According to Gartner, a further indicator of maturity is the size of the office of the CDO in an organisation.

Last year's study reported total full-time employees at an average of 38 (not distinguishing between direct and indirect reporting), while this year there were an average of 54 direct and indirect employees, which Gartner says represents the federated nature of the office of the CDO design.

Gartner also says that with more than one-third of respondents saying "increase revenue" is a top three measure of success, the survey findings show a clear bias developing in favour of value creation over risk mitigation as the key measure of success for a CDO.

The survey also looked at how CDOs allocate their time. On a mean basis, 45% of the CDO's time is allocated to value creation and/or revenue generation, 28% to cost savings and efficiency, and 27% to risk mitigation.

"CDOs and any data and analytics leader must take responsibility to put data governance and analytics principles on the digital agenda. They have the right and obligation to do it," said Mario Faria, managing vice-president at Gartner.

Gartner says the survey results provided insight into the kind of activities CDOs are taking on in order to drive change in their organisations, and several areas seem to have a notable increase in CDO responsibilities compared with last year:

  •  Serving as a digital adviser: 71% of respondents are acting as a thought leader on emerging digital models, and helping to create the digital business vision for the enterprise.
  •  Providing an external pulse and liaison: 60% of respondents are assessing external opportunities and threats as input to business strategy, and 75% of respondents are building and maintaining external relationships across the organisation's ecosystem.
  •  Exploiting data for competitive edge: 77% of respondents are developing new data and analytics solutions to compete in new ways.

Gartner predicts that by 2021, the CDO role will be the most gender diverse of all technology-affiliated C-level positions and says the survey results reflect that position.

Of the respondents to Gartner's survey who provided their gender, 19% were female and this proportion is even higher within large organisations – 25% in organisations with worldwide revenue of more than US$1 billion.

This contrasts with 13% of CIOs who are women, per the 2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey. When it comes to average age of CDOs, 29% of respondents said they were 40 or younger.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).