Capgemini’s 2015 survey of 1,000 senior decision-makers across nine industries and 10 countries revealed that some 43% of organizations are restructuring to exploit data opportunities. Encouragingly, 33% of the surveyed companies have appointed a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or a similar C-level role to lead and exploit such data opportunities, with another 19% planning to do so over the next 12 months.

The number appears to be rising significantly, and across all industries, not just advanced, regulated sectors such as banks and pharma which have experimented with CDO-type roles for several years already (see also Capgemini’s whitepaper “The Role of the CDO in Financial Services”. This trend is driven by Group-wide data exploitation interests, hightened cybersecurity concerns, evolving regulatory pressures and the Board’s interest to have a single point of responsibility to hold accountable for business information maturity.

Good. If corporate information assets really are the lifeblood of a company and harbor the business-critical insights sought by senior decision-makers, then it’s about time data, or better: information, got a seat at the top table.

The rise of the CDO has possibly also been driven by the way in which many CIOs – despite the “Information” in their title – are all too often focused largely on the technical and information infrastructure elements of their roles and hence have left a responsibility gap to be filled by someone with an exclusive focus on information and delivering insights from information assets.

We believe the Chief Data Officer should be responsible for Information Strategy, Information Governance, Information Risk and Information Exploitation: CDO = IS + IG + IR + IE.

Of course with a new trend like this, the most effective CDO set-up has yet to crystallize. Opinions vary widely as to the CDO’s characteristics:

  • Ideal background: should he/she come from IT or the Business?
  • Role and responsibilities: should it include just strategy, plan and guidance or also implementation and producing insight?
  • Scope: should it include all of these: Business Analytics, Big Data, Content Management, Information Lifecycle Management?
  • Risk Management: should it carry the liability to prosecution, particularly in Information Security and when dealing with Data Protection agencies?
  • Reporting line: CEO or other CXO?
  • Relationship to the CIO: equal or deciding vote?

But five core elements seem beyond much doubt:

  1. The CDO sits in the Business, but has a solid understanding of data technology and information architecture
  2. The CDO is involved in Board-level discussions on corporate strategy (assuming that only a company fully conscious of the business value of information would appoint a CDO in the first place)
  3. The CDO owns and drives Information Strategy, Information Governance, Information Risk and Information Exploitation
  4. The CDO does not own the implementation of information management projects such as BI, Analytics, Big Data, MDM, ECM etc. where he/she is merely an influential advisor
  5. Despite its name, the CDO is not as much tasked with the technical, “data” side, but more with the business benefits-focused “information” side of the organization

Capgemini welcomes the increasing trend towards creating the role of a CDO in larger organizations as it demonstrates the significance of business information assets to the whole organization and the outside world (suppliers, customers, regulators, investors), it gives data a voice in the Boardroom and it ensures a more holistic, enterprise-wide approach towards information management.

For more information on Capgemini’s QuickStart Information Governance framework, please contact Ralf Teschner.