We know that founders lead for a time, following founders tends to come those with a focus on structure, processes and controls. This change is often at the demands of financiers who want to drive returns over innovation. As value falls off as the end of a market cycle hits, the reigns of leadership power is yielded to those who can create new markets, products and revenues; but they eventually overspend. Control and process for scale are needed as the reigns of power and decision making are handed back. Overzealous control to drive efficiency will give way again to innovation as the value stagnates and falls; and so the healthy cycle continues.
The role of a CDO does not have a natural bias to one or other of these traditional leadership styles. Data is used to drive the creation of value, but data also drives decisions to maintain control. The CDO power as the key decision maker is abundantly clear.
The emergence of the CDO has been fast and pervasive. Whilst confusion reigns that the Chief Data Officer title shares its abbreviation with the Chief Digital Officer, both roles are facing significant difficulty. (yes — ignoring Career Development Office and other permutations)
Starting in the 1990’s organisations recognised the importance of information technology as well as business intelligence, data integration, master data management and data processing to the fundamental functioning of everyday business, as roles such as the CIO grew in power it was divided emerging into a CDO’s which has become more visible and crucial; however there is a BUT.
The Chief Data Officer has a significant measure of business responsibility for determining what kinds of information the enterprise will choose to capture, retain and exploit and for what purposes, but not ethics, branding, revenue or propositions. However, the similar-sounding Chief Digital Officer or Chief Digital Information Officer has responsible for the information systems through which data is stored and processed (CTO type role) but no legal, infrastructure, business or contractual responsibility. Adding a CIO and Chief Data Scientist to the mix along with the other existing traditional roles; it is now a complex, interdependent, mess of responsibilities and accountability.
It was once clear who was accountable and responsible for revenue, infrastructure, team, brand, proposition, finances, strategy and operations. Senior and executive leadership teams now find they are each all both responsible for everything and nothing at the same time, unable to deliver or think. As we become data driven platform business we have retained the old roles and added new roles meaning everyone is included in: defining strategic priorities for platforms and the opportunities, identifying new business opportunities pertaining to data, optimizing revenue generation through data, and generally representing data as a strategic business asset at the executive table. BUT not everyone sat at the senior table understands data or has the relevant skills.
If the future is a platform and therefore a data led business, the CEO will have to have CIO/CDO skills and experience, meaning CDO’s roles should not exist. A CEO who has a CDO in place as part of a transition knows the CDO is the natural successor. CEO’s who have the traditional business and new platform roles will understand the conflicts and wrestle with to observation that the CEO should be the CDO, and they are not separate roles.
In reality the CDO should be an AI or algorithm supporting the CEO and senior leadership team in decision making — meaning that a CEO stands for “Clearly Dead On-arrival”
CDO surly means “Clearly Dead On-arrival”