The Evolution of the Chief Data Officer

September 24, 2019

A large number of businesses include a senior data specialist, such as a Chief Data Officer or Chief Analytics Officer. Gartner recently researched and discussed how the role of a chief data officer has evolved and the distinctive phases that have emerged over the last few years.

Gartner believes that CDOs are facing a number of challenges in regards to gaining executive buy-in and making their work clear to key stakeholders, as well as driving a transformative process within their business. Mario Faria, the VP and Program Director at the Gartner Research Board states there seems to be one common factor associated with successful CDOs and that is applying a product management focus to their position.

Product management refers to segmenting their work into smaller pieces to generate business value quicker, be capable of adapting to market conditions and to have the ability to scale the model within their business. 

Gahl Berkooz, the VP of data and analytics at German automotive manufacturer ZF Group believes the best way to describe his CDO position is as an entrepreneur. At ZF Group, the core term for his position is ‘monetization’ which translates in his job as finding and creating data-driven businesses that will improve or complement their core business. 

As Berkooz explains, all products are electronic, capable of generating data and so if you can create more value through a data product then you will be able to sell more of your main product. Berkooz believes that the other core area to focus on is developing white spaces that lie close to our core business and are heavily focused on data. Berkooz states that if we don’t move towards these areas, it will reduce the overall value of our products.

Berkooz believes the priority is focusing on truly understanding the data and analytics business, and that business conceptualization is a real entrepreneurial activity. Instead of creating a product, taking it to market and hoping it will meet the requirements of your target market, the idea is to generate a minimum viable product (MVP) that has been tested, measured and enhanced.

Applying a product-focused approach in the CDO role translates into varied approaches for different companies. The overall value of a CDO will vary from business to business because each has its own structure and is controlled by differing constraints. 

The role of the CDO is continuing to become more strategic, influenced by changes in the industry environment. What is clear is, the role of the CDO will vary depending on nature and limitations within each business. However, a common theme is that with every new level of maturity creates a new set of responsibilities and expectations and as business is continuing to evolve, as will the role of the CDO.

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