The Top CDO Activities: Govern, Communicate, Align

As a relatively new title, the chief data officer (CDO) job description and portfolio is still evolving in detail, scale and scope, reporting structure, technicality, and accountability. Even so, some aspects of the CDO role are becoming clearer, often defined by things: the assets, domains, and people in the CDO portfolio.

Another way to describe the CDO is by the activities relating to their authority and influence within an organization’s culture. To that end, we asked our Wisdom of Crowds® survey base to describe the CDO role using verbs, including govern, communicate, align, orchestrate, delegate, and decide.

The findings (which for the full sample came back in the order listed above), provide several worthy observations, starting with the top result. Governance is the most important activity of the CDO according to nearly 70 percent of respondents. This finding is reinforced by a dramatic correlation between governance emphasis and an organization’s success with business intelligence (BI). A remarkable 81 percent of respondents in completely successful BI organizations say governance is the CDO’s top job. Nearly every other CDO activity is more often found in organizations that are only somewhat successful with BI. This finding might also suggest that governance, specifically data governance, is a necessary precursor to any successful CDO’s tenure.

Future Research Insight reports will examine the nouns as well as the verbs associated with the CDO. In any case, the impending or actual arrival of the CDO is among the most logical and welcome developments in the recent history of information management. Assigning C-level authority in a single individual is a leap forward in a long-professed aspiration to manage data as an enterprise asset. But success will depend on matching the CDO and their activities to the existing and also the desired form of the organization.

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