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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.

For organizations that expect these new titles to act as change agents, it’s smartest to have them report to the top exec, experts say. Colin Zima, chief analytics officer at data analytics platform Looker says he’s known CAOs to report to the CFO or the CIO as well as the CEO, but things are changing. “More and more, I’ve seen the title report to the CEO just in terms of trying to elevate analytics to the same level as marketing or sales.”

A CAO who does not report directly to the CEO can still create value for an organization, but it will be harder for that person to drive organizational change, he adds. “If you are working in service to the other organizations, you need to be on a level playing field with them. If you’re reporting in to the CFO, you’re not on a level playing field.”

In addition to the right reporting lines, you also need the right organizational values, and the right support from leadership to create real change, he says. “There needs to be the expectation that data is used to make decisions, and that comes absolutely from the top down,” he says. “If people expect that they can take data to make better decisions, then they will use data to make better decisions.” Google, he adds, is a great example of a company where data-driven decision-making is the norm.

“There’s a cultural expectation that even if your role doesn’t have ‘data’ in the title, you’re expected to use data to make decisions,” he says. On the other hand, he warns, “If your CMO and CFO don’t care about data-driven decisions, their organizations won’t care either. So it starts with culture.”

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