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The Role of the Chief Data Officer, By Helder Martins

Calendar icon 8th June 2022

By Helder Martins. Helder is a Director at Zeren, and is based within our London office, as a member of our Interim & Consulting division.

The year is 2002 and Cathryne Clay Doss is appointed as the first, known Chief Data Officer; the first CDO role is born. Fast-forward to 2022, and more than half of the Fortune 500 have their own CDO, and in some cases, the role has even evolved to Chief Data and Analytics Officer. We will get there later.


So, what exactly does the Chief Data Officer do?


To answer the question, first, we need to establish that data is transformational, and that is key for every business to evolve and innovate.


If, in the early days, the Data Officer was mainly administration-focused for standards and data quality, with the digital revolution and digital economy, the CDO role has since become significantly more transformational.


Data becomes a core aspect of any digital transformation, and data became the fundamental nature of how to make better decisions in a digital world.


Making sure that data informs, enables, and measures the delivery of the business strategy is in essence the role of the CDO.


As businesses seek to drive innovation, there is nothing better than data to support the numerous opportunities and to back-up their innovation.


The CDO enables data capabilities for the business strategy. In order to steer the company in the right direction and achieve business goals, the CDO needs to partner with the business to fully understand what the business requirements are. This will then determine the requirements for the CDO; whether these are governance competencies, process competencies, or technical or even business competencies, these all fall under the remit of the Chief Data Officer.


Businesses need data to become a digital business, and therefore, with no surprise, the Chief Data Officer truly is the key to this digital enablement.


Now, let’s not forget that one size doesn’t fit all; if initially, the CDO was everything data, now, in different businesses, the CDO will have different responsibilities. This can include architecting data, data adoption, data strategy, data vision, security and prevention, and data breaching (although the security aspect now tends to fall under the CISO). As alluded to earlier, the CDO is also becoming responsible for Analytics, thus the Chief Data Officer role has been evolving since its creation 20 years ago. These days we also see a new role, the Chief Data and Analytics Officer, which in my view is a great combination.


It’s becoming cliché, but data is not just intelligence; data is currency. Data is the new currency, and without proper analytics, understanding, and use of data, it’s simply a waste, like keeping your money under the mattress. Therefore, the Chief Data and Analytics Officer is becoming increasingly important, alongside becoming a key, commercial role, in my opinion. Let me know in the comments what you think.



Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.


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