Emergence of the Chief Data Officer

The crowded C suite

The attached ZDNet post says the CIO won't be the first in line when the CEO or board comes looking for a chief digital or chief data officer.

Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit I have not heard ot the chief (BIG) data officer before. Indeed, the title owns a full page wikipedia definition with "notable examples." 

"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."

The chief digital officers are "generally are responsible for the adoption of digital technologies across a business."

Ok, so there's a difference. 

As what traditional CIO turf gets carved up into distinct and deeper roles that can stand on their own, the CIO gets pidgeon-holed as the infrastructure and architecture jockey. None of the hot new stuff for him or her. 

Were it that simple. ZDNet blogger Toby Wolpe cites a Gartner analyst who said all this stuff could just be "piled" on the CIO. After all, who better positioned to understand how all this technology works.   

In theory, the individual overseeing big data would come with a different set of skills than the CIO (computer sci). Requisite data backgrounds are in social media, databases, analytics, statistics, data sciences and linguistics (Bill Gates talked a lot about linguistics 20 years ago). The chief digital officer often hails from marketing, sales, social media and is charged with moving the business from "analog to digital (Thank you, Wikipedia...who isn this awfully smart Wikipedia person, anyway?)."

But these new roles and many others where a new label is stuffed between "chief" and "officer" are not so distinct that they do not overlap in the crowded C suite. Of course, the hoped-for impact of new initiatives is putting your organization ahead of your rival's. But implementation of data or digital programs has broad in every phase of the business from HR to budgeting. And they can trigger territorial disputes.

For these and other reasons, many enterprises won't bite. But some already have and that's what leadership is all about.

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