Why You Need a Chief Data Officer On-Demand – Right Now!

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Across the globe businesses, regardless of their size and customer base, are faced with tightening competition, increasingly savvy customers, and—simultaneously—an explosion in the amount of data to manage.

C-suite executives find that time is not on their side when it comes to developing strategic solutions to these threats. They also find that overcoming these threats requires moving beyond legacy systems that only juggle these balls in the air without significantly advancing the company objectives.

  • Now is the time to adopt a strategy that successfully manages the explosion of current (and future) data and provides a robust system of data analytics capable of supporting your business’s need to please customers and keep the competition at bay.
  • Now is the time to transform your outdated, vulnerable system of siloed data into Data Quality as a Managed Service.

Simply put, now is the time to onboard a Chief Data Officer (CDO) on-demand.

Let’s look at these key points: what is a chief data officer; the case for a CDO; the top three concerns of a CDO; key industries affected; why a CDO on demand; and why add a CDO position now.


The CDO is a senior executive who bears responsibility for the firm’s enterprise-wide data and information strategy, including data governance, control, policy, and effective exploitation. The CDO’s role combines accountability with responsibility for information protection and privacy, information governance, data quality and data life-cycle management, as well as the exploitation of data assets to create business value.

Why does this role matter?


Data drive every business decision, all aspects of customer targeting, service and satisfaction, comprehensive and complete compliance, and even your ability to innovate. Your business edge increasingly depends on your sourcing and managing quality data, and your ability to perform robust, accurate, and timely analytics.

Once it becomes obvious that your legacy system of data sourcing and management is vulnerable to a range of issues which impede your business’s progress, such as poor data quality, duplications, time-wasting cleanup, and inaccessibility, investing in a CDO surfaces as a smart strategy with an ROI that keeps growing as the role of the CDO evolves:

  • As your reliance on data evolves, so must your reliance on a CDO to source and manage quality data, and enable data analytics.

Or, as Gartner’s chief research officer, Valerie Logan, says: 86 percent of Gartner’s 2017 survey respondents “ranked ‘defining data and analytics strategy for the organization’ as their top responsibility,” which, she concludes, “reflects the need to create or modernize data and analytics strategies within an increasing dependence on data and insights in a digital business context.”

  • Gartner’s survey results underscore the “growing importance and pervasive nature of data and analytics across organizations, and the maturity of the CDO role and function”—that is, the CDO’s role has evolved to the point where that position reflects the power of the enterprise, across all departments and business functions.

Consider this: as your reliance on quality data and predictive analytics continues to explode, there is a need to focus simultaneously on both current and future data-related requirements. Why? As Jennifer Belissent, analyst at Forrester Research, knows: “The CDO role galvanizes an organization around the promise of data.”


Today’s CDOs wear many hats, but essentially are responsible for results in these three overarching areas:

  1. Revenue (or value) creation now overshadows security and risk management as the key function of CDOs. In fact, impacting the bottom line directly has evolved to become twice as important as the two other key roles of today’s CDOs.
  2. Cost savings through efficiencies is the second highest priority for today’s CDOs. Another avenue toward a strong ROI, the CDO provides leadership in maximizing the quality and management of data sourcing and storage, the most efficient and accurate data analytics system, and the elimination of waste that comes with using bad data and performing unneeded and time-consuming tasks.
  3. Risk management and mitigation is the oldest role for CDOs, still key to ensuring both data compliance and data security in the most efficient system available.


Industries across the board have been experiencing the need to transform data collection and management and significantly enhance data analytics, but here we will look at three industries in particular: health care, education, and publishing.


 If your company is involved in health care, you are all too familiar with the notion of exploding data. Your company’s CIO might be handling the conversion of paper medical files into digital formats. Your CIO may even have successfully handled the merging of medical records following a merger.

Consider that today’s needs require that your data systems go beyond electronic patient records and merging administrative files digitally:

  • Patient data now are sourced from a vast spectrum of devices including cell phones, wrist watches, medical devices, and monitors across numerous cooperating medical organizations.
  • Medical research employing teams at multiple institutions require the ability to source, access, secure, and manipulate quality data efficiently.
  • In the U.S., HIPAA and other, increasingly stringent, regulatory requirements create a demand for strict data quality and utilization systems that successfully manage accuracy, transparency, and privacy in data sourcing and storing, and in analytics.
  • Add to this mix the evolving nature of government insurance rules and industry policies, which has placed pressure on the industry to track changing patient coverage and changing insurance policies.

The high levels of complexity, security, and quality related to data in today’s health care industry point to the fact that the CDO role is no longer a luxury for companies in this sector. The stakes are too high.


The education sector has experienced a transformation similar to the one in health care: exploding data, ongoing disruptions in education, exponentially more online courses and schools—and therefore more competition—and a moving target of regulations.

Also key is the fact that data in the education sector are sensitive—especially when it comes to personal student and employee data as well as research and institutional assessment information.

Institutions face the daunting task of sourcing, storing, securing, and analyzing these data from a number of cooperating institutions and regulatory agencies armed with a myriad of devices relying on a number of algorithms that may or may not be able to “communicate” seamlessly.

Absent a CDO and a system using data quality as a managed service, an educational institution may be relying on faulty, duplicate, or inadequate data to drive decisions, manage risk, and comply with regulations.

As Education Dive reports,

“The CDO can take the 50,000-foot view and guide policy relating to data, focusing primarily on the data governance structure on a campus. That person can also, however, lead a culture shift, like at UW-Madison. The chief data officer can be a campus’ main advocate for using data and encourage faculty, department chairs, deans, provosts, and presidents to incorporate data analysis and be more strategic about answering questions.”


The publishing industry has never experienced a more difficult constellation of threats from the explosion of B2C audiences globally, to political attacks, Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and a legacy of old print formats transitioning to new digital platforms.

In a sector filled with siloed data stacks in hybrid legacy and cloud systems, companies need change agents able to lead them through their digital transformations and implement efficiencies in a time of harsh financial realities—that is, they need a CDO.

For publications with a European audience, a CDO (or DPOs in the UK) will be a necessary by-product of the GDPR, according to Digiday, which contends that: “for smaller businesses, outsourcing to external DPOs will be a more popular option.”


Growing companies may wish to consider initially opting for a CDO on-demand—an outsourced, part-time CDO rather than the full-time option—for fiscal reasons.

For any company, however, an on-demand CDO is a valuable strategic asset in two ways:

  • First, an on-demand CDO allows your business to onboard a CDO quickly to address outstanding issues such as compliance and data governance, data sourcing, or perhaps analytics to see how these areas can dramatically advance your business objectives; and
  • Second, an on-demand CDO can begin to lead the organization’s cultural change towards a stronger data-driven strategy without the potential threat of a new full-time, high-level executive.


The short answer? To bridge the data management and analytics gap and avoid getting left behind.

Gartner’s Logan succinctly notes that data literacy is the new high bar for good business communication, a necessary ingredient for business success:

“As data and analytics become pervasive across all aspects of businesses, communities and even our personal lives, the ability to communicate in this language—that is, being data-literate—is the new organizational readiness factor.”

But the case for adding the CDO role goes well beyond high-level communications and is driven by current and predicted trends.

Businesses need to “simultaneously navigate regulatory demands, successfully leverage data and manage enterprise-wide governance,” as Forbes notes, with a particular focus in these three areas:

  1. Metadata and data privacy concerns: The imminent GDPR illuminates this trend beyond the growth in security and privacy demands stemming from IoT and AI. Businesses increasingly acknowledge the need to “successfully leverage big data and analytics to create a better customer experience, achieve business objectives, gain a competitive advantage and ultimately, become market leaders. Such is the climate the CDO will navigate.”
  2. Data Governance: The data explosion has led to a more rigorous regulatory environment, which in turn has amplified the need for robust analytics. Together, these developments make the case for data governance that is comprehensive, accurate, detailed, and transparent. Transparency and privacy demands essentially will drive the needs for analytics that meet with regulatory approval.
  3. IoT Impact: Forbes predicts “the CDO will be responsible for an influx of new and current data delivered via new devices and sources that must be managed in very precise ways”—a new role for CDOs. The challenge: how to leverage data efficiently and rapidly from all the current (and yet to be developed) new data sources that often employ a range of algorithms to scrub data.


A key strength of your business can reside in the ability of a CDO to unlock the power of your data: to bring about a system of data transformation and governance that maximizes data quality, data exploitation, and data compliance—nothing more and nothing less.

Gartner’s Valerie Logan sums up the roles of today’s CDOs as “impactful change agents who are spearheading data-driven transformation.”

The Cruz Street Digital team members are expert change agents ready to support your company’s data transformation. Please contact us to learn how we can help.

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