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Secret searches for chief digital officers

Is the chief digital officer’s star being eclipsed by the chief data officer’s? Google news alerts and job postings for chief data officers outpace those for chief digital officers by a factor of ten (or just about), according to David Mathison, self-described curator at this week’s CDO Summit in New York City and founder of the CDO Club. “And, yet, we know there are a thousand chief digital officers and only 200 chief data officers,” he said.

One reason chief digital officers appear to be in much lower demand than chief data officers has to do with the recruiting and hiring process for the respective roles, according to Mathison.

Chief digital officer openings aren’t blatantly advertised because they “go out to executive search,” he said. Recruiters are tapped to find the right candidate, keeping the job search confidential. Chief data officers, on the other hand, come at a lower price tag (with the exception of data officers for banking and financial services), “so they generally don’t go out to search,” Mathison said.

The hubbub over chief data officers is based on smoke and mirrors — and fanned by a complicit press. “There’s a lot going on here in the press trying to push this position,” Mathison said. Who could pass up the news that the inimitable Lloyd’s of London has appointed a chief data officer?  Or not make a fuss over the UK-based Experian’s recent study on the emergence of the chief data officer?

That particular report, which came out in February, had this jaw-dropping statistic: 92% of the 250 CIO respondents (all from large organizations) believe the chief data officer position “is the best place to define data strategy and be the guardian of data quality within an organization.” The best place.

With statistics like this and predictions that chief data officer positions are expected to double in 2015, the role of the chief data officer is definitely having a moment. But, if Mathison is to be believed, so is the chief digital officer — a perspective made clear by last month’s news that the White House has appointed its first ever chief digital officer. You heard it here first: Move over, CDO, the CDO has arrived!