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Gartner Symposium: Why does a CIO need a CDO?

ORLANDO, Fla. — How can a chief data officer (CDO) help a CIO? Gartner analyst Debra Logan counted the ways at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo.

As businesses go digital, many CIOs will need help, especially at companies struggling with data quality and data governance issues. “What we’re really telling you is that you’re getting a bunch of new responsibilities because of digital business,” said Logan, who has written extensively about the role of the CDO. “Flipping to digital leadership expands the role of the CIO.”

And it adds pressure to an already pressure-filled job, especially if CEOs are expecting to double revenue attributed to digital business in the next five years, as Gartner’s annual CEO survey suggests. A data officer, or a person responsible for building a strong data foundation, reducing risk and exploiting the value of data, can help CIOs push the data envelope for businesses that need to transition from historical to predictive analysis, from passive analysis to active experimentation, from analyzing structured data to analyzing text and multimedia, and from separating analytics to embedding analytics. “That’s going to require a lot of stuff, data quality being the first on the list,” Logan said.

Plus, if data governance is still a struggle, CDOs can help there, too, retooling practices from command and control to something a little more people centric, Logan said. “One of the first programs CDOs often launch or are put in the middle of is [master data management], which is a core information governance project,” she said.

She encouraged CIOs to not only embrace the CDO (or the chief analytics officer) as a colleague — but to help shape — and even champion — the role as well. “When the relationship is good, then things start to happen, and [CIOs and CDOs] have success,” Logan said. And when it isn’t, they often don’t. Plus, she said, if a data officer is inevitable, CIOs will be happier if they have a voice in how the position is developed than if they don’t.

That said, not all companies will develop a CDO role. Gartner predicts only 25% of businesses will have a CDO by 2017. Some companies won’t need one; others may need a CDO, but may not be ready for one. Logan advised that if the CDO position doesn’t have board level support, if the business is overly protective of their data and resistant to change and if data governance isn’t a priority, CIOs should avoid suggesting the company develop the position.

Still other companies may want the CIO to take on CDO responsibilities. If that’s the case, Logan said, the worst thing a CIO can do is assume the role without additional resources and personnel. “Because, guess what, it’s going to take people to do this,” she said.

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