The Growing Role of the Chief Data Officer

The MITCDOIQ Symposium is an event designed to help “accelerate the adoption of the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO)” through the exchange of leading edge ideas and discussions. At this year’s event, I spent time attending sessions and speaking with attendees about the current state of the CDO role–the challenges, expectations, and future of this critical role that is ultimately tasked with data ownership and data management throughout an organization.

Who is the Chief Data Officer?

Ultimately, the CDO is responsible for ensuring that an organization is able to fully leverage its data as an asset. In fact, one of the CDOs from a Fortune 100 retailer mentioned that he took on this role because he realized his day job was being inhibited due to poor data management and data quality issues across the organization. This role is tasked with aligning people and technology to ensure that everyone in an organization who needs access to data has it, and that the data being used is accurate and up-to-date. 

Surprisingly, despite the overwhelming challenges that businesses face when it comes to volume, variety and velocity of their data, less than half of businesses currently have a CDO in place who has ultimate authority over the organization’s data. And even at organizations that have a CDO in place, there is a gap between expectations of the role and the reality. At the MITCDOIQ event, one speaker mentioned that when he was asked in an interview what would be expected of him if he were to be hired as a CDO at the organization, he was met with the response of, “we don’t know, you tell us.” The challenge is that many organizations know they need to get a handle on their data, but they aren’t sure where to start.

The Importance of the CDO Role

Ultimately, the CDO is trying to pull data together from across the organization to harmonize it and make it widely available to drive analytic insights and business outcomes. The goal is to help the entire organization create value from its data. The reality of the situation, however, is that most organizations do not fully realize how much of a data integration or data debt issue they have until they start the process. 

This is why the role of the CDO is so critical. Unlike other roles that are focused more narrowly on optimizing and implementing technologies, the CDO is a business-focused role that, at its core, is focused on innovation. As highlighted at the event, the day-to-day activities of the CDO are only roughly 20% focused on data governance–the other 80% of their time is spent on data innovation. It’s easy to see why this is the case: old methods of handling data aren’t working in today’s Big Data environment. Being able to effectively leverage data as an asset means adopting new mindsets in addition to toolsets across the organization to build a ‘culture of data’ and create a true, analytics-driven organization.  

What Lies Ahead

When it comes to the future of the CDO role, one thing is clear: as organizations continue to search for ways to leverage their data to remain competitive, the need for a leader who can innovate and drive business-changing results at those organizations will only grow. The need for this role goes hand-in-hand with a new approach to the way data is viewed at an organization, and the methods for handling and analyzing it. 

To learn more about the role Tamr can play in improving access to real-time data across your organization, schedule a demo today.



Chris Kucher is a Regional Manager at Tamr working in the field to support Customers, Partners, and Go-To-Market strategy in-region. He's spent the majority of his career consulting with organizations on their digital transformation strategy ranging from front end marketing applications, to back end data management.