BI Trends

The Rise of the Chief Data Officer

On the heels of Gartner’s Evanta CDO Summit in San Francisco, here are some impressions on the Chief Data Officer (CDO)/Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) role and its impact on the organization. We've all heard the statistics on the exponential, explosive growth rates of data. The increase in the amount of data collected and stored by organizations over the last decade is undeniable. Here are some stats that bring the sheer volume of this growth to life:

  • As of 2017, 2.7 zettabytes of data exist in the digital universe.
  • Data production will be 44% times greater in 2020 than it was in 2009.
  • IDC estimates that by 2020, business transactions on the internet (both B2B and B2C) will reach 450 billion per day.

Largely due to the accelerating growth of data, CDOs and CAOs have some of the toughest roles in the boardroom today. All of this growth is what led The Economist to declare that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.

If data is the new oil, does that make the Chief Data Officer the new wildcat drilling boss, and analytics software the new drilling rig? The analogy makes sense, but it also demonstrates the perils of doing this wrong. One of the key themes heard during the Evanta CDO Summit was "don't try this at home." In other words, the challenges are complex. Among them:

  • data governance
  • data quality
  • agile insight and analysis
  • storage (cloud vs. on-prem vs. hybrid)
  • forecasting regulatory compliance (e.g., California's Consumer Privacy Act)

The CDOs and CAOs we talked to at the summit are all wrestling with these issues and others, on top of the data growth challenges. State and local compliance is top-of-mind. Most of the CDOs considered GDPR a test case for how to address the coming flood of state-led data regulations. California's Privacy Act is already being considered as a national model.

(See the Act’s author and Chairman Alastair Mactaggart's opening statement at the Senate Commerce hearing on consumer data privacy.)

The good news is that the CDOs and CAOs we talked to at the summit see the challenges on the road ahead, and are doing all they can to prepare for the future. The opportunities in the market for organizations to tap the metaphorical oil wells of data are just as explosive as the growth of that data. But doing so safely in a sustainable manner will determine who survives these early days of data drilling.

So you think you want to be a Chief Data Officer? Check out this blog post to see if you have what it takes. Want to know what Constellation Research Founder and Disrupting Digital Business author Ray Wang thinks about the Chief Data Officer role? Get this Global 2000 adviser’s insights and advice in The Role of Data in Digital Transformation.

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