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Gartner survey: Chief data officers delivering business impact

As the role of chief data officer (CDO) continues to gain traction within organizations, a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. found that these data and analytics leaders are proving to be a linchpin of digital business transformation.

The third annual Gartner Chief Data Officer survey was conducted July through September 2017 with 287 CDOs, chief analytics officers and other high-level data and analytics leaders from across the world. Respondents were required to have the title of CDO, chief analytics officer or be a senior leader with responsibility for leading data and/or analytics in their organization.

“While the early crop of CDOs was focused on data governance, data quality and regulatory drivers, today’s CDOs are now also delivering tangible business value, and enabling a data-driven culture,” says Valerie Logan, research director at Gartner. “Aligned with this shift in focus, the survey also showed that for the first time, more than half of CDOs now report directly to a top business leader such as the CEO, COO, CFO, president/owner or board/shareholders. By 2021, the office of the CDO will be seen as a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75 percent of large enterprises.”

The survey found that support for the CDO role and business function is rising globally. A majority of survey respondents reported holding the formal title of CDO, revealing a steady increase over 2016 (57 percent in 2017 compared with 50 percent in 2016). “The steady maturation of the office of the CDO underlines the acceptance and broader understanding of the role and recognizes the impact and value CDOs worldwide are providing,” says Michael Moran, research director at Gartner. “The addition of new talent for increasing responsibilities, growing budgets and increasing positive engagement across the C-suite illustrate how central the role of CDO is becoming to more and more organizations.”

Budgets are also on the rise. Respondents to the 2017 survey report an average CDO office budget of $8 million, representing a 23 percent increase from the average of $6.5 million reported in 2016.

With more than one-third of respondents saying “increase revenue” is a top three measure of success, the survey findings show a clear bias developing in favor of value creation over risk mitigation as the key measure of success for a CDO. The survey also looked at how CDOs allocate their time. On a mean basis, 45 percent of the CDO’s time is allocated to value creation and/or revenue generation, 28 percent to cost savings and efficiency,and 27 percent to risk mitigation.

According to the survey, in 2017, CDOs are not just focused on data as the title may imply. Their responsibilities span data management, analytics, data science, ethics and digital transformation. A larger than expected percentage of respondents (36 percent) also report responsibility for profit and loss (P&L) ownership. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they are developing new data and analytics solutions to compete in new ways.

Gartner predicts that by 2021, the CDO role will be the most gender diverse of all technology-affiliated C-level positions, and the survey results reflect that position. Of the respondents to Gartner’s 2017 CDO survey who provided their gender, 19 percent were female, and this proportion is even higher within large organizations – 25 percent in organizations with worldwide revenue of more than $1 billion. This contrasts with 13 percent of CIOs who are women, per the 2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey. In terms of age, 29 percent of respondents said they were 40 or younger.

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