E-Handbook:

Chief data officer challenges mount amid calls for more value

Will the real CDO please stand up?

Back in the early days of television, a popular game show debuted called To Tell the Truth. Based on a series of spontaneous questions, four celebrity contestants made an educated guess as to whose occupation among three John or Jane Does was the real deal versus the two imposters.

The show has had an on-and-off existence over the past seven decades. So today, if a chief data officer, chief digital officer and chief analytics officer squared off and answered questions about their occupation, the inquisitive panel would have a difficult time determining the real CDO.

"[T]he boundaries between CDOs and chief digital officers are becoming more and more blurred," read a Gartner 2020 CDO survey released in May 2021. "CDOs are increasingly being asked to take on more strategic objectives and lead digital transformation." A February 2021 article from the MIT Sloan School of Management concurred: "Depending on the business strategy, the CDO can have a wide-ranging impact, whether that's helping to improve marketing, optimizing supply chain operations or streamlining business processes to reduce costs."

Beyond liberating siloed data and complying with regulations, the latest chief data officer challenges may be clear, but the job description is not. "The chief data officer role is firmly established, but not firmly defined," reported a NewVantage Partners 2021 survey. "[C]larity on responsibilities, focus, purview and reporting relationship remains in flux."

All of which begs the question, do job titles really matter? Perhaps Shakespeare -- er, Juliet -- had it right: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

This handbook examines chief data officer challenges and the shift in business focus toward monetization; offers CDOs 10 best practices for transforming data into gold; and interviews two frontline data officers who bring greater clarity to the CDO's expanding role.

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