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The CDO role has come a long way since its popularity started to rise in the early 2000s. The reason for this growth was in response to businesses viewing data as an element that could be used to their advantage as well as informing them on various aspects of their business performance and customer base. More than 4 in 5 large organisations now have CDO roles or similar. This shows the wide uptake across various industries and markets.

At the start, the Chief Data Officer role was mainly focused on background day-to-day functions like data management and governance, however, this has grown into a larger and wider responsibility task list including analytics and strategic decision-making, due to the growing significance and standing data is having in business operations.

As the role of CDO widens, this represents the increasing reputation of data as a vital business tool, pushing the necessity for a specific role to be filled to manage the data and technology concerned.

Analytics are one of the foundations of a CDO’s role, allowing data leaders to show their worth via data-backed decisions, increasing daily efficiency and a higher yield of results.

At first, when the CDO role first started out, they focused on responsibilities that were considered defensive, like risk management and compliance checks. However, now we see the role turning into a more active and front-row role. The role has a heavier emphasis on increasing growth, initiative and profit gains thanks to insights, trustworthy data and data-backed strategies.

There is an element of relationship building and sponsorship that needs to be considered within the CDO role. Having firm relationships with stakeholders and partnerships with other organisations is vital for success, as this promotes a data culture as well as promotes change at an organisational level.

CDOs don’t usually stay long in the same company, in fact  “…CDOs have among the shortest tenures of any C-suite executive. The average CDO lasts roughly two and a half years in their role in the private industry compared with an average C-suite tenure of almost five years. This could make providing CDOs with the clarity, resources, and tools they need to be successful all the more important.” (Deloitte Insights, Playbook 2023) Other affecting factors could be the economic climate and as of late the wave of AI technologies like GenAI.

CDOs are focusing on GenAI for its potential to drive business innovation and growth, bringing both benefits and challenges.

The debate is whether AI-related tasks and business should be a CDO responsibility or if a separate dedicated role is required, however, this obviously depends on the organisation’s requirements, size, and projects.

Over the last year, the CDO title has evolved into many variations and branches such as the CAO which is the Chief Analytics Officer, the CDAO which is the Chief Data and Analytics Officer and the Chief AI Officer. One could describe this as the modern CDO role venturing and broadening out further as technology develops and as the needs of a business may change over time.

About the Author

Sophie Muscat

Head of Marketing

Sophie is our Head of Marketing. She has a wealth of experience in marketing and communications, having driven strategic initiatives and managed direct communications.

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