Mar 112013

I saw the announcement of the Cutter Report on the proposed “Chief Data Officer” role, by Larissa Moss and Sid Adelman, and I have a problem with its message. Thank goodness that differences of opinion are accepted and even encouraged among Cutter consultants!

I have absolutely no problem with stressing the importance of data in the enterprise, and the need to govern that data. On the contrary, I love information architecture, master data management, and other related concepts. I’ve quoted Larissa Moss before, because she said some really important things a number of years ago, before anyone else did. There.

But if we need Chief Data Officers, it means that we have failed miserably at defining and implementing the role of the Chief Information Officers. After all:

  1. Data should be part of information, right?
  2. The whole deal about the CIO title was that his/her role was broader than just Information Technology.

Now I’ve seen companies where the successor to a CIO was named “VP of IT,” and where this “demotion through succession” sent a clear signal: please, new person, take care of our PCs, our network and our security, oh and of course, especially take care of reducing our IT costs by 5% each year for as long as you’re in the job, but don’t come and tell us anything about business strategy, because the big guys (yes, it’s usually guys) know all about that, and you don’t.

Now, if the C-suite occupants have that attitude, why would they name a CDO? They obviously don’t understand the importance of information management (perhaps because no one explained it to them well, by the way), and the same reasons that made them limit the role of the CIO — and even eliminate that title — are going to prevent them from assigning another person to handle data governance. Conversely, where executives experience the epiphany that data is a key asset of the organization and needs to be managed as such, then the right solution should not be, in my opinion, to assign a CDO, but to restore the CIO to his/her rightful place in the company.


  4 Responses to “Chief Data Officer? So is Data Not Information?”

  1. avatar

    Brilliant analysis, I think there are too much CxO titles around anyway and I have the feeling, that there is no big difference between CIO and CDO.

    Information IS based on data, so what could be the idea behind these two roles: Should the CDO just develop clever strategies of analyzing the big data and the CIO develop clever buisiness strategies based on the data prepared by the CDO? Is the CDO then not only a data engineer working for the CIO? How could the CDO develop strategies of analyzing data without having business decisions in mind, that the CIO would have?

    In short, I think CIO and CDO is more or less the same and of course more than just a VP of IT. Just my 5 ct.

    • Thanks, André. I’m glad you still read me :-) I value your 5c, especially as they are euro cents.

      My main concern is that if the CIO role is well recognized, then you don’t need a CDO, and if on the contrary the CIO is not recognized, then the role of the CDO will follow the same path. After a few months, the CDO will be asked to focus on reducing the cost of storage per gigabyte, and he becomes another non-strategic person judged on cost reduction. I just don’t see a scenario in which the CDO durably and successfully adds a strategic capability to an organization.

  2. avatar

    Interesting discussion about CDO, CIO, etc. DIKW is the real challenge for business to manage and requires board level presence. Regardless of the title, a business that has a clear strategy for managing the whole data / information lifecycle has got to be in a good place – or is at least heading in the right direction.

    As there appears a general dissatisfaction about the use of D or I, we are left with K or W. With C-Level being forward looking and strategic surely the post should be CWO!

    • Clive, I see a lot of I and much less W around :-) But in all seriousness, your post brings an interesting dimension to the debate. I rarely see CIO or VP IT’s taking an interest in Knowledge Management, other than to the extent that they deploy and support SharePoint, which can only be called a KM system by an extreme stretch of one’s imagination.

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