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The current state of the chief data officer

Are chief data officers having a moment or is all the CDO talk hype? According to Google Trends and Google Analytics, it’s likely a little bit of both.

Richard Wendell, Chief Data Officer Summit

Richard Wendell at the Chief Data Officer Summit.

That was the gist of an analysis of the CDO role presented by Richard Wendell, founding board member of the MIT-affiliated International Society of Chief Data Officers (ISCDO), at the recent Chief Data Officer Summit in New York City. Here is what he cited for the chief data officer audience.

  • Google searches for CDOs are trending, “but happiness is a low base,” Wendell said. CDO searches are experiencing a 100% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), but that still only amounts to 36,000 searches a year. “Where does that place us? That places us a little bit above African swallows and slightly below silver birch trees,” he said.
  • Most CDO searches are coming from the United States, “but this seems to be changing,” Wendell said. He pointed to statistics from CDO Club founder David Mathison, who found that in 2014, the number of CDOs in Europe grew to 23%, up from 7% in 2013. Wendell also pointed to recent CDO events happening in Asia and Africa. “I don’t see this as a U.S. phenomenon,” Wendell said. “Potentially, we could see a lot of expansion here, but it’s still early days.”
  • Top keywords associated with the CDO searches include data science, analytics and CIO responsibilities. “Why are people searching for chief data officer while they’re searching for CIO responsibilities? Is it because we’re trying to figure out what the difference is between our job and what the CIO’s job is? Maybe a little bit,” Wendell said. But a more promising read of the data suggests the CIO and the CDO are two natural collaborators. “One of the big questions I’d posit that all of us chief data officers in the room need to be asking is how can we be better partners for our chief information officers, with our chief information officers,” he said.
  • CDO vs. CAO searches. The term chief data officer is searched five times more often than the term chief analytics officer (CAO). “And, if you look at the CAGR, chief data officers are at 100% versus more or less a flat line for chief analytics officers,” Wendell said.
  • CDO vs. CIO searches. Searches for the term chief information officers are down 20% incompound growth year over year, with just 35% of searches happening now compared to 10 years ago. “That’s a big drop in searches,” Wendell said. He speculated CIOs or those researching the position may not have as many questions about role responsibilities compared to CDOs or that the CDO role is hyped well beyond the CIO role, amounting to more searches.

No doubt, there are more scientific studies on the topic, but the data provides some perspective on the current state of the chief data officer.

Question for readers: Does your company have a chief data officer? Or is it planning to hire one in 2016?

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