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Chief Data Officer: Insights Meet Intuition

Recently, I wrote about the emergence of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) as a new breed of C-Suite executives. Last year, Gartner identified that “there are more than 100 CDOs serving in large organizations today, which is more than double the number in 2012.” While the number of CDOs is rising, there’s a wave of speculation as to whether an organization really needs a CDO. Well, I say, “yes.” When it comes to data, things like “predictive analytics” and “cognitive computing” come to life, and for executives, the gap between great decisions and lousy ones is infinitely shrinking. As data becomes the key that must be unlocked, today’s organizations need a dedicated focus behind data analytics and its applications. You might point out the roles of the CEO, the CIO, or the CMO as driving the digital transformation of an organization, but are they adept at handling the all the data needs of every organization?

CEO, CIO, and CMO – Who Drives the Digital Wheels of an Organization?

In the ideal world, a CEO can and should steer the wheels of digital transformation in his/her organization. Unfortunately in the real world, not many organizations have CEO’s with the time or the digital knowledge to drive this initiative, which is why the need arises for someone from the senior management to take on the role. CIOs and CMOs are the most obvious choices, but they aren’t necessarily the best ones for reasons I’ll demonstrate

While it’s true that no one understands technology better than the CIO, the digital needs of an organization are not solely resting upon IT. As data analytics become critical for key business processes, like gaining customer intelligence, improving sales, productivity, and revenue, capturing data is gradually climbing to the top of the priority list for many organizations. But besides capturing data, businesses will also need to make sense of all the data they are collecting. This is often where the CIO fails. CIOs use their tech expertise to reach to the deepest trenches of data-rich resources, but many lack the business insight to mine this data for the information that is most beneficial. (Of course there are always exceptions)

The CMO, on the other hand, has a deeper understanding of digital channels and how to use them to reach the customer, but they rarely drop their marketing-centric ways to adopt a more complete view that is necessary in the case of digital transformation. In most cases the CMO has a cursory understanding of the potential role of technology to enhance their marketing programs, but most of the time they need a well versed accomplice that understands both technology and how to contextualize data that will lead to better decisions and programatic outcomes.

What is becoming abundantly clear – CEOs, CMOs, and CIOs each have their place, but cannot bridge the gap when it comes to an enterprise’s digital transformation.

The CDO Can Bridge the Gap

The digital goals of an organization are best realized when the CIO and CMO work in lockstep. But many organizations suffer from a strained relationship between the CIO and the CMO, which commonly occurs because of conflicting ideas related to two separate motivations. CIOs are concerned with ways to capture data, while CMOs are mostly occupied with leveraging data for branding and advertising. The CDO can be viewed as a bridge between the tech-focused CIOs and the brand-focused CMOs, due to their holistic view of the customer experience, which includes both technology and branding.

By helping to support the intuition of the CEO, CMO, and CIO with their data driven decision capabilities, the CDO is vested with the responsibility of developing a digital business strategy focused on the core business model, triggering organizational initiatives, and leveraging the digital transformation of the organization. In a world where harnessing data will continue to proliferate and even find itself at the center of an enterprise strategy, I believe the CDO will continue to make great strides in earning not just a role, but a key position within the evolving C-Suite.

Image: Creative Commons

Article first appeared on Forbes and can be found here.

Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.