The Chief Data Officer role is created. Long Live the CDO!

by Kate Tickner on 30th June 2017

In my last blog I mentioned that I had used Wikipedia to look up “Chief Data Officer”. One of the links I found there was this one. It is an Information Week story about the announcement of a formal Chief Data Officer role at Citigroup in 2006 which it claims is the first in a large financial services firm. John Bottega who took the position has subsequently moved on to a Chief Data Officer role at both Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Bank of America, and now has his own data management advisory business as well as being an advisor to the Chief Data Officer Forum within the US EDM Council. This succession of consecutive CDO roles for high profile companies (followed by the ability to provide advisory services in the same area) indicates that it was a role he was both successful in and which was and still is regarded as very important across financial services but also beyond.

The same article suggests that the first mention of a CDO role was that of Usama Fayyad at Yahoo in 2004. One of Mr Fayyad’s current roles is that of CDO at Barclays which again clearly indicates the importance of the CDO in large financial services institutions. However, global LinkedIn searches, using Chief Data Officer and Chief Marketing Officer as the Title and keywords yield results of 2000 and nearly 29000 respectively. There could be many reasons for this – for example someone in a CDO role may not have that precise title or some companies may not feel they need a CDO (yet). It may also be good old “user error” in my search terms but nevertheless the evidence suggests that there are still far fewer CDOs than other executive level titles although the trend is upwards.

Research firm Gartner has been predicting this rise for years – see this article from 2012 – and predicted more recently that 90% of large organisations would have a CDO in place by 2019. Their research and aspects of the Chief Data Officer role such as salary expectations and how it is proliferating into other sectors are discussed in this article from www.cio.co.uk:

“The UK government named its first Chief Data Officer in Mike Bracken in March 2015 and the Financial Times named Tom Betts as its first CDO – with a position on the FT executive board – in September 2015.”

Gartner’s 2012 research summary stated that the reason for putting in place a CDO was that: “All CEOs must decide who governs rapidly expanding information resource opportunities and risks.” However, it also indicated that people with the right skills for Information Governance were in short supply and that executives would need to develop “Information Leader” talent rather than just try to hire for it. There is a scarcity of skilled and experienced resources in Information Management more generally so it is therefore not such a surprise that people with those abilities AND executive level experience are not widely available. In my next blog I’ll talk about what qualities and skillsets existing CDOs think they need to be successful and what they think their mission is – then we can consider how someone who aspires to be one might acquire these skills and build relevant experiences.