Why ‘Chief Data Officers’ are the new C-Suite must-have in the AI economy

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In this Q&A, we speak with Derek Slager, co-founder & CTO at Amperity, who reveals why the ‘Chief Data Officer’ (CDO) is critical for organisations who want to remain competitive in a data-driven, AI-powered economy.

What is the role of the CDO? How does it differ from the CIO or CTO? Is there some overlap?

The best CDOs possess strategic vision and leadership, technical expertise, an understanding of data governance best practices, and an understanding of data as a strategic asset. They require a combination of skills and expertise to effectively manage an organization’s data initiatives and foster a data-driven culture. The CDO is responsible for implementing a broad range of technologies – from data integration and management tools to analytics and visualization software to Customer Data Platforms (CDP) – to drive business results.

The four core areas of responsibility for a CDO are:

  1. Data Strategy and Vision: A CDO establishes the data strategy and vision for the organization. They set the direction for data initiatives, ensuring that data management, analytics, and governance are aligned with the organisation’s broader goals. This involves defining the objectives, prioritising projects, and allocating resources to maximise the value of data assets.

  1. Cross-functional Collaboration: A CDO fosters cross-functional collaboration, connecting disparate teams and departments toward a common data-driven goal. They work closely with IT, business units, and other stakeholders to ensure that data initiatives are well-coordinated and aligned with the needs of the organisation. This involves facilitating communication, building partnerships, and promoting a data-driven culture across the enterprise.

  1. Data Governance and Quality: A CDO is responsible for refining data governance and quality. They establish policies, standards, and processes that ensure the data is accurate, consistent, secure, and compliant. This involves implementing data governance frameworks, defining data quality metrics, and monitoring data performance. By maintaining high data quality, the CDO ensures that the organisation’s data initiatives remain effective, producing valuable and reliable insights.

  1. AI and Advanced Analytics: Familiarity with machine learning and artificial intelligence concepts and technologies is essential for a CDO to harness the power of advanced analytics and drive innovation within the organisation. They must stay current with the latest trends and best practices in AI and analytics to identify opportunities for leveraging these technologies to create value for the business.

Do you think the role of CDO is misunderstood? If so, why?

As a relatively new addition to the C-suite, the CDO role is often confused with other executive positions, such as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

One of the main reasons for this confusion is that the CDO’s responsibilities can vary significantly depending on the organisation’s size, industry, and digital maturity. Some CDOs may prioritise digital marketing and customer experience, while others have a broader scope that encompasses digital transformation, data management, and innovation.

Another factor contributing to the misunderstanding is the overlap between the CDO’s responsibilities and those of other executives, such as the CIO or CTO. This can lead to uncertainty regarding the division of tasks and potential power struggles within the organisation.

It’s important to recognise that the CDO role is still evolving alongside the ever-changing digital landscape. As technology and business needs continue to transform, the understanding of the CDO’s role may not always keep pace with its actual scope and responsibilities.

Furthermore, measuring the success of a CDO can be challenging, as the impact of digital initiatives may not always be immediately apparent or easily quantifiable. This can make it difficult for organisations to fully grasp the value of having a CDO on their leadership team.

To address these misunderstandings, organisations must clearly define the CDO role and its responsibilities, ensure alignment with other executive positions, and effectively communicate the importance of digital transformation and data-driven decision-making throughout the organisation. CDOs, in turn, should focus on building strong relationships with their fellow executives, demonstrating the tangible impact of their initiatives, and maintaining agility in the face of an ever-evolving digital landscape.

How can CDOs make themselves the most valuable to their organisations?

First and foremost, they need to make sure that their digital initiatives are completely in sync with the company’s overall business goals. By showing how digital transformation can boost growth, streamline processes, and make customers happier, CDOs can position themselves as key players in achieving those objectives.

Another crucial aspect is promoting a data-driven culture. CDOs should be the biggest cheerleaders for using data and analytics in decision-making across the board. They can do this by encouraging data literacy, making sure everyone has access to the right tools and insights, and fostering a culture where experimentation and continuous learning are the norm. This way, they can help their organisations become more nimble and competitive in today’s digital world.

Building strong partnerships is another must. CDOs should be actively forging relationships with other executives, business units, and external partners to make digital transformation happen smoothly. By working closely with the CIO, CTO, and other leaders, they can ensure that digital initiatives are well-coordinated and have the right tech infrastructure and resources to support them.

Finally, developing digital talent is crucial. CDOs should be investing in growing the digital skills and capabilities of their teams and the entire organisation. By offering training, mentorship, and opportunities for growth, CDOs can help create a strong pipeline of digital talent that can drive transformation and innovation for the long haul.

About Amperity

Amperity delivers the data confidence brands need to unlock growth by truly knowing their customers. With Amperity, brands can build a first-party data foundation to fuel customer acquisition and retention, personalise experiences that build loyalty, and manage privacy compliance. Using patented AI and ML methods, Amperity stitches together all customer interactions to build a unified view that seamlessly connects to marketing and technology tools. More than 400 brands worldwide rely on Amperity to turn data into business value, including Alaska Airlines, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Endeavour Drinks, Planet Fitness, Seattle Sounders FC, Under Armour and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. For more information, visit amperity.com or follow us on Linkedin, X, Facebook and Instagram.