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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.

At the same time, good CAOs want to make sure they’re working with the right data and that it’s high quality. “It can be tough to get an organization to understand the data management piece of it,” Cerilli says. “I’ve seen great analytics leaders go to organizations where the data wasn’t ready for them yet and get frustrated and leave.” This is why some CAOs want ultimate responsibility for data management, and why some experts recommend giving both roles to one executive.

If a CAO is doing the job right, he or she has a high likelihood of disrupting existing business processes. That means that a good CAO must have strong relationships within the organization, a deep understanding of the business, and great communications skills. “The data science skills, the technology skills and all that — that’s all necessary but insufficient,” says Chris Mazzei, chief analytics officer at EY. “Ultimately, the organization needs to consume analytics, and that means changing business decisions.”

That’s where many CAOs can run into trouble, he says. Mazzei was at EY for 20 years before becoming CAO, most recently as chief strategy officer. “I had the benefit of understanding a lot of the business; I had relationships with the senior leaders,” he says. “I wasn’t put in the role because I was the best technical person we had in the firm. Those other skills have been really underappreciated and they’re critical because of what the objective is.”

For a closer look at the chief analytics officer role, including salary expectations and advice on how to succeed as one, see “What is a chief analytics officer? The exec who turns data into decisions.”

The chief digital officer role and responsibilities

If being the evangelist-in-chief for drawing value from data and changing business processes is part of the chief analytics officer role, that function is front and center for chief digital officers. But beyond the need to sound the call for new, more digital approaches to solving business problems, the role can mean different things in different organizations.

“It’s a bit of a cross-functional role,” says Curt Stevenson, chief digital officer at insurance software company Duck Creek Technologies. “It means very different things to different people. In some cases, it’s an internal role about maximizing digital marketing. In our case, it’s about helping our customers embrace digital and provide better experiences to their customers.”

For more on the chief digital officer role, see “What is a chief digital officer? A digital strategist and evangelist in chief.”

To whom should these titles report?

Where do chief data officers, chief digital officers, and chief analytics officers fit in the reporting structure? In a recent Gartner survey of both chief data officers and chief analytics officers, 40 percent said they reported to the CEO. Sixteen percent reported to the CIO, with the rest reporting to the CFO, CTO, or a non-C-suite title.


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