The role of technology officers has evolved from support staff to digital enterprise transformers, cybersecurity experts, and, now, data and automation leaders. But, the time has come again for companies to rethink what their data needs are to determine whether or not they should create a new role that prioritizes C-Suite decision-making.

Today, chief technology officers (CTOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) are the C-Suite advocates for digital transformation. At the smaller companies, these roles are usually combined, while, at larger companies, they are split. CTOs typically lead the technology and engineering departments. CIOs are often flexible IT operators whose roles focus on implementing long-term software and technology tactics/investments.

When used appropriately, data can be monetized and traded to fuel growth. When neglected and mismanaged, it becomes a silent threat that can destroy the entire company.

Companies continue to evaluate the best way to tackle data challenges, and many have implemented a new C-Suite role — chief data officer (CDO) — to work with the CEO and ensure data is top of mind for every decision.


CDOs are generally responsible for the following.

  • Leading all data strategies and initiatives, including outcome-based timelines.
  • Maintaining data quality, data governance, data management, data security, information strategy, data science, and business analytics.
  • Creating and/or adopting new data, technologies, and other analytic solutions in service of company strategy.
  • Cultivating a work environment where the employees understand analytics and the importance of data.

Currently, CTOs and CIOs underinvest in data capabilities, as budget constraints often prioritize engineering, research and development, IT projects, supporting a work-from-home office environment, and other essential internal services. CDOs are budget advocates, prioritizing the commitments to data analytics and AI, monetizing data, development projects for data infrastructure, data security and compliance, and consolidation. Therefore, having the CDO separate from the CTO and CIO clarifies who is responsible for what and enables more effective data management best practices.

From 2012 to 2018, the number of companies that hired a CDO increased by more than 50%. This number is only going to increase as data becomes more significant and ubiquitous. In fact, Gartner predicted 75% of all large companies will have a CDO this year. These CDOs will play more important roles as data begins to grow from 23 zettabytes (ZB) just four years ago to an estimated 175 ZB by 2025. (Keep in mind that 1 ZB is equal to about 1 trillion GB.)

Gartner found that top-performing CDOs succeeded by focusing on creating a data and analytics strategy, driving culture change via data literacy programs, and using a center of excellence as their operating model. A CDO that joins your C-Suite prepared to do such things — or maybe even already possessing that particular experience in their background — could be of tremendous value to the team and the company overall. Companies with a CDO have twice the odds of owning a clear digital strategy that helps them outpace their competitors in the stock market and in terms of innovation. In other words, CDOs have proven their worth time and time again.