Many companies over the past few years have developed the position of Chief Data Officer (CDO), often placing that position in the C-suite. However, exact organizations vary, as one would expect, since organizations vary in their need for data management.
A common aspect of data management in modern business, though, is that data, including big data, along with the infrastructure needed to handle and analyze and, most importantly, put it to good strategic use, is a growing and even critical phenomenon.
Nevertheless there has been debate about whether CDO's should even exist, whether they should report to the CIO, CFO, or the CEO. The roles of the CIO (chief information officer) and CDO have been evolving, particularly in terms of their relationship to the strategic aspects of the business.
It has been obvious that technology has pervaded all aspects of business over recent years. That being the case, the activities of the CIO directly affect all strategic and operational areas of the business. Accordingly some activities that at one time were traditionally CIO activities have been spun off into the functional areas, with the CIO acting as coordinator. At the same time, the CIO has assumed more of a strategic role, working with various functional areas, such as marketing and finance.
Along comes the CDO, with a knowledge of data management, data sources, data infrastructure needs and the importance of data to particular functional areas. Clearly the CDO needs to operate at a strategic level in cooperation with the affected functional areas. One challenge, therefore, is to avoid duplication of effort.
To some extent duplication is not an issue, since the CDO is focused on the data more than the infrastructure and the CIO is more focused on the infrastructure rather than the data. There is a role for both, therefore, at the C-suite table, but their roles need to be clearly defined. And they need to work together.
To have the CDO report to the CIO will likely take away some of the benefits to the organization of advanced data management, so both should report to the CEO.
According to a recent report by the Gartner Group, this is the dominant trend.