The chief data officer (CDO) – or Chief Data Officer, in free translation – is a relatively new position and was born out of the high demand for process data digital which, today, are the most valuable assets of a .

Roughly speaking, the CDO is the executive responsible for managing information and defining strategies regarding an organization's data. In other words, he is responsible for the digital transformation in the company.


Sounds simple and well defined, doesn't it? However, according to a survey by the company of database Exasol, released by ZDNet, there is a lack of alignment about what the role of the CDO should be. In addition, 50% of people in the position believe that organizations' expectations about the role are misinformed.

The study was conducted with 250 CDOs from Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. The survey data also pointed out that professionals feel that the value of their role is not yet recognized and that unrealistic demands on the part of company leadership are causing many to leave their positions prematurely.

In numbers, 23% of respondents also reported a lack of support and resources from their organization, while 20% felt the scope of the role did not live up to expectations.

What is the role of a CDO? Research indicates lack of alignment in the position. Image: Profit Image/Shutterstock
What is the role of a CDO? Research indicates lack of alignment in the position. Image: Profit Image/Shutterstock

According to Exasol, this explains the constant search for companies for people who fill these vacancies. Still according to the study Enterprise Data Management CouncilAs of 2020, only 8% of CDOs have a term of more than three years. According to Exasol, 17% remained in their functions for up to two years.

"The exact requirements and job specifications for the CDO role vary from organization to organization, as do their areas of focus and the pressing issues they face," Exasol Director of Data and Analysis Peter Jackson told ZDNet.

Also according to the executive, one of the factors for the role of CDO to still cause a lot of confusion is that it is a relatively new position and, also for this reason, it does not have a specific area of ​​training for this role.

The professionals in the position may have a varied market experience, from data governance to data science. “In addition, hiring decisions are often made by people who don't fully understand the challenges faced or the range of skills the CDO faces,” he added.

Also according to the survey, 18% of CDOs also said their role was not clearly defined, increasing frustration and situations involving difficult conversations with company leadership, mainly because some did not understand the issues they needed to resolve.

“The point is that people without the right data skills or knowledge don't understand that different problems require different skills. Therefore, it is important for an organization to understand its objectives and then recruit the CDO who has the right skill set and experience to deliver that,” explained Jackson.

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CDO and CIO – different roles that go together

The director of Exasol also took the opportunity to highlight some differences between the functions of the CDO and CIO – Chief Information Officer, or Information Technology Director, in free translation. The acronyms of these positions are often confused by the similarity in performance.

“The CIO takes care of the bucket, while the CDO takes care of the water. They earn working together. CEOs and boards are also recognizing that the data leader has a different skill set than the CIO – skills they need.”

The study also highlighted the lack of investment in education in the field, as 63 percent of respondents said the education system was not doing enough to demonstrate the appeal of data careers to younger generations.

“Formal qualifications don't have as much impact on a candidate's availability, but on-the-job experience and a proven track record of delivery are essential requirements hiring managers should consider when recruiting CDOs,” noted the director of Exasol.

Jackson concluded by recalling that digital transformation will never be delivered without a data transformation – “and this needs to be led by a data expert.”

Credit Main image: Vadi Fuoco/Shutterstock

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