Chief Data Officer (or CDO) and the Role of the Future

Posted on:

December 19th, 2022

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Insights & Thought Leadership

Chief Data Officer (or CDO) – What, Where, When and Why?

What or who is a Chief Data Officer? What is the roles’ purpose and value within a business? How does it function within the wider structure of an organisation? And how is this set to change with the technology revolution moving at an ever-increasing pace?

Clekt the data experts answer your questions below. 

Chief Data Officer - CDO


Chief Data Officer Defined 

The Chief Data Officer or CDO is a C-level executive whose position has evolved to include an array of strategic data management accountabilities, including data governance, quality and strategy depending on the stage the business has reached in its data transformation journey. They are in short, the most senior level of management overseeing the strategic use and management of data. 



CDO vs CIO Role 

The Chief Information Officer (or equivalent title) is often the highest level IT leader within a business, responsible for strategizing, managing and implementation of the technology systems within a business. 

Oftentimes the CIO oversees all other C-level execs within the IT domain of the organisation. In such cases the Chief Data Officer would report to the CIO who would then in turn advise the CEO. 

It is however becoming increasingly common, with the realisation of the vital importance of the harnessing of data, that the CDO is working in conjunction with the CIO. With the CIO in charge of the technological infrastructure and the CDO directing the data created via the infrastructure, relating it back to business operation and overall business strategy. 



CDO Role Past and Present 

Early in the emergence of the CDO role it comprised mainly of data governance and data software ownership. Namely to ensure data was being handled and stored in accordance with best practices, making it available to the departments requiring access and to manage the software used to collect, store and structure said data. 

The role in some organisations has evolved to include the development of a data-driven culture, crossing the departmental divide, defining standards for the use of data, and facilitating the sharing and use of data between IT and other business areas. This extends to the development of a data strategy, the nurturing practices identifying and using data as a corporate asset. Implementing analytic processes, recognising opportunities to increase revenue or reduce operating costs. 



CDO Key Responsibilities 

The array of responsibilities overseen by the CDO has grown significantly since its’ inception. The increased emphasis placed on the need for digital transformation and the reliance on digital intelligence to remain relevant in any given industry, feeds the progression and the remit of the role. 

Many of the current key responsibilities include the following: 

  • Manage the of the flow of data through business systems. 
  • Develop and oversee data governance strategy and best practice. 
  • Manage business intelligence systems operation, in conjunction with other key stakeholders 
  • Partner with key business stakeholders to understand their data requirements and educate on further opportunities in this space  
  • Integrate data analytics effectively into existing business processes. 
  • Prioritise data quality initiatives that facilitate accurate business outcomes. 
  • Expedite user access to data whilst maintaining data protection and privacy as a priority. 
  • Foster data democratization, data literacy and a data-driven culture throughout the business. 
  • Promote the connection of siloed data to central business systems. 
  • Monetise data collected from multiple sources by employing a data platform. 
  • Support the development and marketing of products and services through making relevant data available to departments requiring access. 



CDO Role of the Future 

The chief data officer’s role is likely to be expanded to generate value, with profit-and-loss accountabilities. 

The role will be responsible for envisaging new ways to use and generate revenue from data. Strategizing a holistic enterprise data approach, entrenching it as part of the overall business strategy. Identifying and nurturing new streams of revenue through monetization of data services and sharing. 

Also to further derive data-driven decision management (DDDM) strategies transforming organisations to data-first thinking, with decision intelligence driving business strategy and operational efficiencies at every level. 

The CDO role of the near future is also likely to incorporate artificial intelligence as AI relies on vast quantities of ‘learning data’, which the CDO is in prime position to oversee. Also, the IoT or Internet of Things which again will likely lean on a CDO’s experience of managing vast quantities of data. 



Key Facilitators for Successful Navigation of a Roadmap to the Future 

Numerous factors will go a long way in supporting the next stage of evolution of the CDO role within the most forward thinking and transformative businesses. 


  • Data literacy 

An understanding of the value of data within upper management, feeding down to their teams, creating partnership with CDOs (Chief Data Officer) and their teams in all other areas of the business. 


  • A supportive economic model 

Processes set up for recognising and attributing data generated revenue and costs, helping inform the evolution of data-centric processes. 


  • The right team 

Data talent with experience and good instincts, or a partnership with an external provider offering data expertise and services. 


  • Supportive operating model 

A supportive environment and business model, accepting of the value in the learning process vital for new ideas to be surfaced, developed and true innovation to occur. 



Industry Applications 

The importance of investment in data and the potential for substantial revenue increase and drive profitability is synonymous across all sectors. The employment of a CDO to manage the data and drive the development of the data strategy is a part of that, alongside the investment in a modern data platform. 


Here are a few examples of industry applications of the role of CDO: 


  • Consumer Product/Retail CDO Role 

Working in partnership with the sales team, using data to drive sales conversions. With marketing to identify, drive and personalise customer touchpoints. All sharing in the responsibility of meeting shared target metrics. 


  • Financial Sector CDO Role 

Commercialising internal data-based services for external bodies, maximising operational efficiencies, and offering a single view of client across all systems. 


Bringing ticketing and retail sales into a single view with venue operation to maximise efficiencies, increasing revenue and cutting costs. All departments working in collaboration to meet targets.  


Working in partnership with the marketing team to identify, drive and personalise all customer touchpoints. Driving conversions from a single view of customer and maximising efficiencies with a single view of stock. 



Do Businesses Need a CDO? 

Leading enterprises are placing increasing emphasis on the monetisation of data.  

The driving of meaningful change through intelligent decision making, informed by a real-time view of operational, customer and stock data will offer a return for any business vertical and the investment in a CDO and modern data platform is a part of this process for many. 

The recognition of the value of data within the senior management team is the most important element. This being supported by the appointment of a senior level executive specifically to drive, and stake hold the data function within the wider business strategy is proving increasingly popular, but not necessarily vital for growth in a challenging market. 

The specific need and ideal time to hire a CDO will vary from case to case. Sometimes the catalyst is the sensation that the company is ‘drowning in data,’ where the value is theoretically acknowledged but requires a figure head to take charge and lead the data transformation of the company. 

Ultimately the decision on if and when to hire a CDO will be based on the potential value of data to and the structure of your organisation.  Effective data management and the utilisation of data through a business in itself doesn’t require the addition of another senior executive to the team.  

Working with an external partner, such as Clekt may be a logical step to get access to strategic data support, delivery and demonstrate the business case for hiring dedicated internal resources,  building the foundations of a company data strategy without the expense or challenges of building an in-house team. 



How Could Clekt Help You? 

Ultimately the question of whether to hire a CDO or indeed the structure of a data team is different for each business, it is important to align data strategy to the broader business strategy in order to deliver at a pace that puts data front and centre of key company initiatives.  

The Clekt approach is therefore flexible according to the needs of your business, whether that is working alongside a CDO or an existing in house data team, providing an outsourced data team option, or most likely a hybrid approach, the operating model has to evolve over time and demonstrate real business value at every stage.  

Having begun each journey from a different point along their data trajectory, from the very beginning, supporting in developing a data strategy and putting the foundations in place, to facilitating simple plug and play systems integrations with the added benefit of surfacing data in a clean, straightforward and repeatable manner. Whatever your requirements Clekt can assist. 

Every journey begins with a single step. Get in touch to have a chat with our data experts, let us shed some light on the options open to you and your organisation. From that point you can explore the best routes to begin or continue your data journey.