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The Rise, and Rise, of the CDO

3-10-2014 1-18-24 PM

I once wrote that one of a business leader’s most valuable assets is also the least likely to be quantified. How does a chief accountant measure what inspires a customer?

The answer, I now am finding, is that the chief accountant does not. Rather, a new role is being created for that job – the chief data officer – and it may become one of the most important positions in the c-suite.

Consider that Americans are enrolled in more than 2.65 billion loyalty programs – 22 per household – but participate in less than half, according to loyalty researcher COLLOQUY. As marketers, we strive to engage consumers, but still have no hard evidence of their underlying commitment to our brands and services; no formula that measures bottom-line growth or cash flow can reveal customer loyalty.

But that may change, according to recent research by Gartner. The information technology consultant predicts 25 percent of all large global companies will have someone dedicated to the role of data oversight by next year. Here are five facts Gartner shares about these CDOs:

The role is growing to the power of 10: More than 100 chief data officers – that specific job title – work at large organizations today. That’s more than double the number Gartner counted in 2012.

Finance and government lead the way: The role of the chief data officer is most prevalent among banking, government and insurance entities, in that order. That said, Gartner is now seeing an uptick of CDOs in other industries.

Most are in the United States: While there are now chief data officers in more than a dozen countries, most of them – 65 percent – are in the United States. The United Kingdom accounts for 20 percent.

New York and the capital corner the U.S. market: More than a quarter of U.S. chief data officers work in New York or Washington, DC, not surprising since the government is a leading employer. Increased regulatory scrutiny is fueling the trend.

Women are major players: More than 25 percent of chief data officers are women. That compares with just 13 percent who are chief information officers. (I may have a talk with my daughter.)

These five facts converge to point out one truth: Data is among the most valuable of corporate assets today. It should be treated with the same care and scrutiny as product inventories and SG&A expenses.

By appointing a chief data officer, these organizations are shifting the corporate conversation from the analytics group to the boardroom, and eventually to the front lines where consumer is. When it comes to corporate assets, nothing beats that.

 

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