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What’s the difference between a chief data officer, chief digital officer, and chief analytics officer?

Minda Zetlin | Nov. 14, 2017
Companies are increasingly developing new executive roles aimed at making the organization as a whole more data-driven and digitally adept. Here’s how three new tech exec titles take different approaches to tackling the same problem.

The most effective chief data officers are those who leave data management oversight to someone else, says Andrew White, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Chief data officers who say they’re adding value to their businesses don’t have responsibility for managing data,” he says. “That stays firmly with the technologists. They tend to focus on strategy and prioritization and business cases. They act on behalf of other business leads. They prioritize which decisions are top of mind for the board.”

White also believes that of the three new titles, chief data officer is likeliest to be in use long term. “Six or seven years ago, banks had chief security officers, privacy officers, chief information officers,” he says. “But even though they had lots of chiefs, no one was taking the lead on putting the business value of data to work. They came up with the chief data officer role as an attempt to put someone in charge of the business use of data and other companies copied them.”

Although some CIOs and CTOs saw this new role as an incursion on their turf, most were happy to hand off the daunting job of drawing value from data, he says. “So the chief data officer title became legitimized. There was a separate conversation about the chief digital officer title, which originally was outward facing. And chief analytics officer popped up. But the corralling title seems to be chief data officer. It will be interesting to see if it gradually sucks in all the others.”

For more on the chief data officer role, as well as salary expectations and what to look for in hiring one, see “What is a chief data officer? A leader who creates value from all things data.”

The chief analytics officer role and responsibilities

What’s the difference between a chief analytics officer and a chief data officer? It depends on whom you ask. A chief analytics officer is responsible for data analysis and business intelligence. But some experts think this is part of the chief data officer’s job. “I don’t know that there’s a huge difference between a chief data officer and a chief analytics officer,” says Mike Doonan, partner at the high-tech recruiting firm SPMB in San Francisco. “Companies are getting caught up in titles and not in what it is they’re actually trying to accomplish with the role.”

Others see the two roles as two different jobs with different backgrounds. “The chief data officer is about data enablement,” says Justin Cerilli, head of the data and analytics practice for consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates. “The analytics piece is how you drive insights off that data. How do you make that data actionable for business?” The chief data officer, he adds, doesn’t usually have a data science background, whereas a chief analytics officer usually does.

 

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