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The Tale of two CDOs - Never the twain shall meet?

Paul Marriott, Chief Operating Officer at SAP Asia Pacific Japan | Aug. 29, 2016
Chief Digital Officers and Chief Data Officers – responsibilities, respect and power to change business outcomes

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Chief Data Officers, or CDO for short,  are finding a firm foothold in the global business world.  In 2014, 25% of Fortune 500 companies had hired a CDO. Research firm, Gartner, predicts that 90% of large companies will have hired a CDO by the end of 2019. This rapid rise reflects the increasing importance for organizations to monitor and understand the large amount of data that relate to their customers, products, citizens and services.    

Another CDO, specifically a Chief Digital Officer, has been influential in at driving business outcomes. While the acronyms seem to be used interchangeably, the general consensus is that the two roles are clearly distinct. Chief Digital Officer looks at how organizations can effectively transform in the digital age while Chief Data Officer is responsible for aligning data with business priorities. Both these positions are relatively new, and share similar goals,  but their functions can be quite different.  

Instead of being distinct, I would argue that as digitization sweeps across economies, the role of the Chief Data Officer is fast merging with the Chief Digital Officer. Data holds the key that will unlock real business value, but this can only happen when businesses lay down the right digital framework that can extract the most powerful intelligence. In the digital economy, the role of the Chief Data Officer and Chief Digital Officer will converge towards the same end defined by true business innovation.

The confluence of two CDOs

Most executives agree that Chief Data Officers must focus on the business as a priority. The Chief Data Officer is charged with developing strategies driven by the company's business objectives and work closely with the CIO and executive management to align business and technology issues.

In some companies, the Chief Data Officers already own the charter for finding new revenue models by leveraging data as an asset. They oversee how data is gathered, managed, and monetized. But the role is not limited to only the practical world of cost savings, revenue and finances. The Chief Data Officer is at the center of defining data strategies for connected cars, smart factories, Internet of Things, Big Data, and everything related to digital transformation.

The Chief Digital Officer, on the other hand, helps an organization drive growth by converting traditional analog business to digital. They also oversee operations in the rapidly changing sectors of mobile apps, social media, virtual goods, web-based information management and marketing. In these new digital business models, the requirement to provide instantaneous access to accurate and new types of data become the fundamental differentiator, this new digital channel requires the services of the Chief Data Officer to ensure data governance, protection and life cycle management are all in place.  

 

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