By Derek Strauss

June 2018

Key considerations for the success of the Office of the Chief Data Officer (CDO)

The world of Big Data is right now in a danger zone. There are many technological silver bullets falling out of the sky for us to try out, and it is an exciting time indeed. However, for us to achieve sustainable business value with these technologies we must ensure we are giving due attention to building and maturing our Data & Analytics capabilities.


It is in this environment that the Office of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) plays an increasingly important role. Practically speaking, the CDO is responsible for accelerating enterprise innovation and transformation through strategic management and use of data and analytics.


In 2015, there were just a few hundred Chief Data Officers globally. Since then, over 1,300 Chief Data Officers were hired, bringing the total to over 2,000 – surpassing the number of Chief Digital Officers.


But how do you effectively launch the Office of the CDO? What is needed is an Integrated Capability Framework, bringing together People, Process, Architecture and Technology, and embracing an end-to-end vision for Data & Analytics. Gaps in this Framework, if left unattended, will certainly undermine your ability to derive ongoing value from your Big Data investments.



The Role of the Chief Data Officer – the Remit and the Reporting Line

Should the role of Chief Data Officer report into the CIO or into the CEO or another Business Executive? Should it encompass both Data and Analytics or is it best to focus purely on Data? Is it mainly a strategy role or should it be heavily implementation-oriented? Should the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) report to the CDO? Should the role be mainly defensive (compliance with regulations) or offensive (growth oriented; monetizing the Data of the enterprise)?

These are important questions that need to be addressed up front when establishing the role, and the answers should be reviewed and fine-tuned every 3-5 years thereafter so that changes in the larger organization’s goals and structure can be addressed.

Over the last few years, we have observed the CDO Role moving from Defense (Risk & Regulatory) to Offense (Value Creation & Growth). The regulatory mandates may have played a significant role in realizing the need, definition and focus areas for the early CDO functions but that defense-oriented focus is now moving towards positioning CDO as a key aspect of the business strategy. 

It is our experience that the Office of the CDO should address 4 key pillars:

  • Data Governance
  • Analytics and Data Science
  • Data Architecture
  • Data Development and Operations

These teams may or may not all directly report to the CDO. It is however critical that the CDO should have enormous influence over what is being done in these areas to support the implementation of the Data and Analytics Strategy, for which there needs to be shared accountability.

Due to the crucial importance of Information Security, the CDO role needs to have key oversight of the CISO’s activities, utilizing the Data Governance Council to establish the rules around Information Security.

Regarding reporting line, we have seen many successful CDO’s reporting to either the CEO, Chief Operating Officer, or some type of Transformation or Shared Services Chief. The bottom line is that the CDO is a Business Role, not a Technology Role.

It is also important to distinguish between the roles of the Chief Data Officer and the other CDO – the Chief Digital Officer. This latter role, normally tightly aligned with the Chief Marketing Officer, is responsible for the adoption of digital technologies across a business, devising and executing social strategies that grow brand loyalty and advocacy on social networks by:

  • Determining who and where the influencers are
  • Empowering the influencers with tools to drive the message and brand across the community
  • Listening to the community, engaging in bi-directional dialogue with customers

Developing your Data & Analytics Strategy – Long-term Program with Short-term wins

The Strategy should address several aspects, including:

  • Accessible, accurate and actionable data
  • A Data Architecture that is flexible and scalable
  • Better governance and controls around the data to ensure continuous improvement of enterprise data resources
  • Better insights for the Firm and its Clients

The Gavroshe Seven Streams Playbook™ – Using Accelerators to Launch your Data & Analytics Program


The Gavroshe Seven Streams Framework provides a comprehensive approach to ensuring effective, long lasting data management solutions aligned with strategic needs.  Woven through this framework is consideration of the people, process, technology and data needed by companies and agencies to leverage their data as an asset and reach their business goals faster.

It has been our experience that the successful CDO needs to focus on 7 Streams  of Activities for Strategic Data Management:

  • Data Governance – establishing the Data Governance Council, Data Policy and the Data Stewardship process
  • Data Architecture – establishing a Data Reference Architecture and the Data Modeling process
  • Data Asset Development – iteratively plan, design, develop and deliver enterprise-class Data Assets, through the implementation of DataOps
  • Data Quality – profile, map and cleanse Critical Data Elements
  • Data Context – develop a Business Glossary and Data Lineage
  • Analytics – support implementation of Business Intelligence and Advanced Analytics toolsets and enable Data Science, including support for the organization’s Cognitive Journey
  • Infrastructure – manage the Information Life Cycle of Corporate Data Assets and manage Data & Analytics Platforms to cater for SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud)

Managing the Organizational Change

The CDO needs to lead the organizational change, paying specific attention to the following:

  • In the Business Community – Data Governance, Analytics and Data Science
  • In the Technology Community – Agile Design/Build, Cloud Computing and other modern platforms, balancing Data Security needs with ease of Data Access

Measuring Success

The CDO must gain organizational buy-in from the start as to how the Office of the Chief Data Officer will be measured. Some approaches are:

  • Business Value realization
  • Relief from Technology Pain Points
  • The Change-enabled Enterprise – making it easier to introduce change

About Gavroshe

  • In our 31st consecutive year of business
  • Co-Authors with Bill Inmon of the book “DW2.0 – The Architecture for the Next Generation of Data Warehousing”
  • Creators of the Gavroshe Seven Streams Play Book for Chief Data Officers™
  • A recognized Industry Leader in the area of Office of Chief Data Officer Enablement…
  • A recognized Industry Leader in Full-Lifecycle Data Management Enablement Encompassing ALL Data Assets…
  • Comprehensive Data Management Expert Consultants – From Strategy to Performance Tuning and Ongoing Operations
  • Sponsors of the 0 Certification Training Program for Next Generation Data Warehousing, and certified as Government Information Factory Architects by Bill Inmon