Follow Datanami:
August 17, 2017

Important Steps CDOs Should Take to Show Their Value

Ashley Stirrup

via Shutterstock

As organizations have increasingly recognized the importance of information technology as well as data integration, master data management, and data preparation to the fundamental functioning of every day business, the role of the CDO has become more visible and crucial. In fact, a recent survey by Gartner shows appointments of CDOs have been accelerating in the last three years, with 54% of organizations indicating they already have an office of the CDO fully or partially implemented.

The role of the CDO includes defining strategic priorities for the company in the area of data systems and opportunities, identifying new business opportunities pertaining to data, optimizing revenue generation through data, and generally representing data as a strategic business asset at the executive table. The latter half of this definition likely explains why this survey also showed that 24% of respondents said the board of directors wanted the role—meaning more and more companies are beginning to fully understand the strategic value of data and modifying current business operating models to make better use of enterprise information.

However, because of the high degree of variability in what CDOs do, to whom they report, and how the position’s success is measured—three of the most critical defining aspects of a person’s job—it can often be hard for CDO’s to prove the value they deliver. This truth is substantiated by the survey, which states that by 2020, 25% of chief data officers will have moved employers because of the demand to be successful.

The following are vital steps CDOs can take to demonstrate their value to their organizations and help increase their overall visibility and success:

Make sure the role of the CDO is well defined and understood within your organization

The chief data officer has one of the most important roles in today’s C-suite. A CDO holds the huge responsibility of spearheading enterprise-wide governance, analytics and utilization of corporate information as an asset. This gives them a significant amount of influence over what kinds of information the enterprise selects to capture, retain and devise a way to utilize in their organization.

Distinguish the CDO from the CIO

Regardless of to whom a CDO reports, it’s important that they can effectively collaborate with other C-level executives and extended layers of the organization. Given that the “I” in CIO stands for information, it is a critical to understanding the relationship between and clear lines of differentiation in terms of ownership between the office of the CDO and that of the CIO. Making sure everyone is aligned on who is responsible for what will go a long way in terms of easing collaboration and fostering collective success for the broader organization.

Clearly, define how the CDO’s success will be measured based on an agreed to “vision” for the company’s data priorities

The first thing a CDO needs to do is help the company build its “vision” for becoming a data-driven organization – something that looks across all of the company’s data silos and is aggressive, but achievable. CDOs should also create benchmarks and measurements for information-related programs and activities – always taking into account the business outcomes they want to achieve by effectively managing and utilizing data in their organization.


Ultimately, CDOs should map those objectives to measurable activities that can contribute to success, easily proving whether or not they’ve effectively impacted the desired business outcome. For example, Usama Fayyadwas the first CDO for Yahoo! before becoming CDO for Barclays of London where he demonstrated the bottom-line impact CDOs could have when he calculated how behavioral targeting of ads could generate as much as $500 million in new revenue for the company.

To this end, we see where Gartner’s CDO survey shows a common thread emerging:

  • Through 2021, successful CDOs will be tasked with key business initiatives that will require a broad set of change-management skills including communication, collaboration, and consensus-building
  • Through 2021, successful CDOs will be deeply involved in the planning and execution of most strategic digital business initiatives
  • Through 2021 successful CDOs will be spending more than 70% of their time on driving new solutions
  • By 2021 60% of CDOs will have revenue generation as their #1 priority

If you are a CDO or hoping to become one, a convenient tool to use to convey the value you bring to your organization is to remember the acronym C-A-R-D:

Collaboration with both the C-suite and broader business organization

Articulation of strategic value of data—or defining the data ‘’

Revenue Generation—how does having a better handle on data contribute to the bottom line?

Distinction—Make sure it’s clearly understood what falls within your domain and how those efforts will be measured over time.

About the author: Ashley Stirrup is the chief marketing officer of data integration tool vendor Talent







Related Items:

One on One with the CDO of the Year

CAO or CDO? Analytic Institute Examines Differences