Top 5 Chief Data Officer Misconceptions

The role of the Chief Data Officer is still very much evolving. As organizations and departments pursue the transformation needed to capitalize on the correct use of data and analytics, the role of the CDO remains widely misunderstood.

In preparation for the Chief Data & Analytics Officer Government 2018 event, I have spoken with countless CDOs from Federal, State, and Local government agencies. Whilst I have heard a wide breadth of differing opinions due to departmental size, budget and maturity in their data journey – there have been a number of consistent key complaints.


  • Chief Data Officers are Uber-nerds

The first major complaint is that CDOs are turbo nerds, hidden away with calculators and algorithms. The truth is far from this generalization. Whilst the CDO will have to have a certain amount of technical prowess, In reality, they are no different to the rest of the C-Suite– The CDO is closely aligned to business than it is to IT and acts as data’s voice in the boardroom. To do this they must be smart, intelligent, focused and persuasive. Think more “The Fonz”, and less Professor Frink!


  • The time and investment required to implement a D&A programme that yields real business value

The second misconception, like the rest, is due to a lack of understanding of what the CDO actually does. Most employees do not have a clear view of the amount, flow and complexity of data within an organization. Also factor in privacy and ethics as well as tight budgets and suddenly you have a serious challenge on your hands. Dealing with data is not just a case of throwing it into the cloud, or installing an off the shelf data suite. It is a long and arduous process that cannot have corners cut if it is to have any real value – I’ve been told 2 years minimum and some eye-watering investment before it begins to show its real value….


  • It is a technical role

Many CDOs have stated that their role is more closely linked to sales and marketing with an internal focus, and less of a strictly technical data based role. Given the uphill struggle of changing internal mindsets that are resistant to change, many CDOs feel that they act as the salesman of the value of data within the department.

The challenge in motivating every part of the organization to be more effective with what they do and in democratizing data so that it is central to every department’s strategy is immense. To do this, they must build relationships in all areas of the business, in every department and at every level.


  • That data, is data, is data

Not all data is created equally and every business environment and operating model is different. Not all businesses perform the same tasks or operate in the same manner. I haven’t encountered one CDAO that does the same thing or operates in the same way as another. This is a new field and for the companies and agencies that are exploring the role of CDAO, it is important to realize that everybody’s use of data and analytics is different. There is no one size fits all case study. The role of the CDO is also closely aligned with the role of the COO – the skills required from role to role are drastically different and specialized.


  • Finally, that the role is a flash in the pan

For over a year now, it has been reported that “data is the new oil”. As data analytics programmes are beginning to reach maturity and organizations around the globe are beginning to see the benefits of a robust D&A programme, this is only fuelling the power and importance of the CDO. This is being reflected in their budgets – In 2017 the average CDO budget was $8m, a 23% increase from the average of $6.5m reported in 2016. It has also been predicted that 15% of CDOs will move on to CEO, COO, CMO or other C-level positions by 2020.


We will be discussing these issues and more at The Chief Data & Analytics Officer Government 2018 event this May. To find out more about the event, including the agenda and full speaker line-up – click here.

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