IT Brief NZ - Chief Digital or Chief Data Officer?


Chief Digital or Chief Data Officer?

A colleague of mine at work brought this article to my attention: The New Digital Economy Scenario: The Chief Digital Officer and the Need for Strategic Digital transformation.  Its an interesting article for a number of reasons – some I can agree with and some I cannot.

The Work Needs to Get Done

Irrespective of the job title a business needs a focal point, one senior business leader to champion digital transformation.  Note I didn’t say “champion digital”.   Digital transformation is a whole lot more than just digital products.  Digital transformation is not easy.  If you read Digital to the Core by Mark Raskino and Graham Waller, both of Gartner, you will note that there are different phases to the transformation.  Only the first couple really look only at “customer-facing” and “digital streams” from customers and products.  The later, more richly rewarding digital transformation has to expand into fulfilment, supply chain, IOT, and everything else.  That is what is meant by transformation.  Just focusing on a new digital offering to a customer is called marketing and is not the same as digital transformation.  Here is my Digital to the Core book review.

Is it Digital or is it Data?

The problem with many new innovations (I think that’s an oxymoron) is that it is incomplete.  Any vision focused on a new way to understand or influence customer engagement or experience has to, at the end of the day, concern itself with how firms respond and react to customers.  In other words, while “customer is king” remains true, the reality is that there are many other agents and parts of the ecosystem that has to be aligned in order for that innovation to win through execution and re-tuning.  So even as “customer is king”, so supply chain (or now ecosystem) is master and the source of realised value.  But how do you value that ecosystem of agents, customer, and partners, etc?  See In Digital Business, the Value of Connections Is Predicated on the Value of Information for more information.

A “chief digital officer” was that role focused on the early understanding of digital transformation.  It was never oriented on the whole picture.  It was, if you will, a catalyst for the change needed.  As such, and this was part of our Enterprise Information and Master Data Management summit a couple of years ago, we expect to see the number of “chief digital officers” to fall as the role gets absorbed back into its primary channel – such as marketing or sales.  This would be analogous to the head of e-business some years ago.

A “chief data officer” started out life very differently.  They started out some years ago in banking and were, back then, focused on regulation and compliance.  But the role has established as enterprise-wide and enterprise reaching.  More recently that role has moved into other industries, and the focus of information governance has shifted beyond just control and compliance and now more towards enabling business and business value realisation.  So the chief data officer looks both customer facing, ecosystem, and inward – together – to balance all the needs of information – from raw data, digital streams, IOT, master data, content, records, images, documents, files etc.  A chief data officer might be your CMO, your chief digital officer, or your EVP supply chain.  They might even be our CFO.  See Staffing the Office of the CDO and Survey Analysis: The Career Path to the Chief Data Officer Role.

Bottom Line

So the article is pretty good overall but it wrongly positions the two roles.  The author defines chief data officer as really only interested in big data and possibly analytics; as opposed to all things data and decision management – period.  The author does a pretty good job of describing the broad role needed, but he incorrectly ascribes it to the chief digital officer.  In 2013 Deb Loganand Mark Raskino published this note: Why Your Organisation Needs a Chief Data Officer (and Maybe a Chief Digital Officer, Too).  It might be a good place to start reading.

Well, if we didn’t disagree a few times a day, it wouldn’t be any fun, would it?

Here is a summary of last years’ CDO survey (see First Gartner CDO Survey: Governance and Analytics Will Be Top Priorities in 2016) – we will be publishing results of our new 2016 CDO survey shortly.

Article by Andrew White, Research VP

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