Chief data officers growing in number and influence

“To successfully introduce this behavioral change, leadership teams will need to agree upon a transparent standard structure and a clearly-defined role that allows the CDO to work across an organization to better understand how the data can be used to achieve business objectives,” Kohl added.

Wiseman’s report examines a number of lessons learned among government CDOs, including the importance of executive leadership in establishing and empowering the office of the CDO, as well as the need for CDOs to be skilled managers, planners and data stewards.

“There are two key ingredients that must be present from the start — a clear mandate and ​visible support from the chief executive,” said Wiseman. “The most successful CDOs have, in addition to good data skills, two key talents: first, an ability to broker partnerships, whether with agencies that need to contribute data for a project, or with pro bono partners who can contribute in kind resources. And secondly, a spirit of entrepreneurship that allows them to think creatively and take some risks. This is new work and a willingness to experiment, try new things, learn from challenges and move on is critical.”

Working together

As the CDO role grows, and more CDOs begin reporting to the CEO instead of the CIO, how can the CDO and the CIO successfully work together?

“Ideally, the CIO and CDO are complementary, although traditionally many of the responsibilities of a CDO were those of a CIO,” said Gray.

A lot of the scaling of processes that CIOs drove that helped automate business has happened in last 20 years, Gray added. So at this point the role of CIO does not consistently require innovation in the same way it did. 

“The CIO and a CDO have to partner so that together they have the business knowledge and context but also the technical knowledge to understand how to ask the questions that matter and find their answers using data,” Gray said.

Both the CDO and CIO roles are evolving, but it’s unlikely one will replace the other, Kohl said.  

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