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I recall reading the Data & AI Executive Survey by NewVantage Partners at the start of the year that indicated only 15% of CDO/CDAO roles were reporting to the President/CEO of the company. From the daily conversations I have with data leaders, it doesn’t seem like much has changed. We still see the majority of the most senior data positions in a business are reporting to the CTO, the CIO or another person in C-suite.

Referring to a comment from Eddie Short, Data & Technology Leader – if a business is truly looking to become data-driven, a CDO/CDAO shouldn’t be reporting to these people, they should be seen as a peer.

For a long time, data has struggled to be seen as separate from the technology function. The fact that data functions utilise an ever-changing array of technologies to do their job, doesn’t mean that the success of data functions should assessed as a part of technology. If a business is to be data-driven, then data should be recognised as a function that is integral to generating revenue and therefore should report to the top of the company.

After a conversation with some of the Mentors from our recent cohorts in the Driven By Data Mentorship, it became clear that this was an issue on the minds of a lot of data leaders.

Inspired by this conversation, I created a LinkedIn poll to gather opinions from other leaders on whether businesses are giving senior data leaders the right ‘seat’ at the table. Although the poll has been open for less than a day, it seems the overwhelming majority that this is sometimes the case, or not at all.

There are several reasons why we’re seeing data leaders positioned incorrectly in a business.

It could be that people outside of data don’t really understand the importance of a CDO/CDAO but believe they should hire in the space because other businesses are doing it. This is often reflected in job adverts and the responsibilities that some CDOs/CDAOs have. Jessica Simons-Boswell, Head of Data at e.surv Chartered Surveyors makes an excellent point that organisations seem to be rebranding a ‘Head/Director of’ role and advertising it as a CDO/CDAO role simply because they think they should have one.

It could also be that some organisations are trying to entice aspiring CDOs/CDAOs into their business by giving them the title and promising their full commitment to being data-driven when in reality, it’s total lip service.

I believe we are moving in the right direction with senior data leader roles, but probably not as quickly as we should be. There is an increase in the number of organisations that have appointed CDO/CDAO, the next challenge is to move closer to having agreed criteria for what is it is a CDO/CDAO looks like.

If you’re an organisation looking to appoint a CDO/CDAO role in the future and want to connect with senior leaders in our community, get in touch at

About the Author

Ethan Simpkin

Talent Consultant

Ethan is a highly skilled consultant with us here at Orbition, specializing in data and analytics.

With a passion for technology and a natural talent for identifying top talent, he has become a valuable asset to both clients and candidates in the industry.Read more.

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