A Tale of Two CDOs: Is It “Chief Digital Officer” or “Chief Data Officer”?

cdo
A Tale of Two CDOs

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the “CDO Summit,” hosted by the CDO Club and Capgemini Consulting. While the CDO in this case meant Chief Digital Officer, I noticed some of the speakers had “Data” in their titles, suggesting a close alignment with CDO as Chief Data Officer as well. In fact, the conference program was packed full of discussion and presentations on how data analytics was shifting the game for many enterprises.

Not too long ago, I asked a group of executives what the difference between chief data officer and chief digital officer was. Generally, chief data officers were seen as reporting to chief digital officers, as data was the key component of broader efforts to move to digital enterprise. The chief digital officer is assumed to have roles encompassing various aspects of content development, sales and marketing, operations, production, finance, and product development.

Then again, the chief data officer will also be immersed in these areas of the business as well.

The overlap and convergence between the two CDOs mirrors what’s happening in many organizations. Many recognize the opportunities now available through digital channels, and the efficiencies that can be gained by adding intelligence to products and services. At the same time, this only can be accomplished by capturing, analyzing and monetizing the data that is generated or supports these digital efforts.

This means converged responsibilities, skill demands and opportunities for a range of positions across enterprises – not just CDOs.

Nevertheless, these two types of executives are likely to be looking at things from different perspectives. For example, in terms of background, the chief data officer is likely to have a background in statistical analysis, and may come up through the ranks as a data scientist. Many chief digital officers are coming out of marketing or IT.

Thus, you are likely to find chief data officers worry more about the data, and how it is being created, handled, and secured, while chief digital officers focus on the bigger picture.

For some perspective on the roles of chief data officers, Dr. Anne Marie Smith, principal consultant at Alabama Yankee Systems, LLC, describes the scope of responsibilities in report out of the Cutter Consortium:

  • Articulate the enterprise’s data vision
  • Serve as “champion for global data management, governance, quality, and vendor relationships across the enterprise.”
  • Work with “executives, data owners, and data stewards to achieve data accuracy and process requirement goals for all internal and external customers.”
  • Oversee “the monitoring of data quality efforts within the organization.”
  • Lead the education of the organization “on data management concepts, the appropriate usage of data, enterprise master data management and data quality concepts, enterprise decision-support concepts, data vendor capabilities, definition and appropriateness of data management, rules on data access, and other data-related issues.”

The responsibilities of chief digital officers don’t fall too far from those of chief data officers, as they also call for data leadership. The roles of this CDO as explained by Sam Ramji, Vice President of strategy at Apigee, include the following:

  • Articulate the enterprise’s digital strategy – how a digital transformation will help the organization “meet the challenges of a mobile-first world, digital partnerships, and new forms of competition,” as well as “build a consistent experience for customers across different lines of business in order to produce network effects for the enterprise.”
  • Earn company-wide commitment for the digital strategy – serving “as a culture broker, establishing a single vision that spans businesses and technologies and being the active champion who gets everyone on board to execute that vision.”
  • Embrace data-based experimentation — facilitate the ability to experiment repeatedly in the digital realm, with the expectation that failure is the most important part of innovation.
  • Drive for tangible and measurable results Connect with experts in the company and the broader industry.

Speak multiple business languages (IT, marketing, strategy, finance).

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