The number of chief data officers worldwide has more than doubled over the past couple of years, growing from 400 in 2014 to 1,000 at the end of 2015, according to Gartner.
The analyst firm predicts that by 2019, 90 per cent of large organisations globally will have a chief dedicated to managing and making sense of data.
In 2014, Gartner predicted 25 per cent or large organisations globally will have a CDO by 2015, with other industries besides finance and marketing starting to invest in this role. CDO of Booktopia Angela Keil-Zippermayr told CIO Australia at the time that as more businesses go digital, there’s a growing need to have a dedicated professional to mine, analyse, manage and bring value out of data.
Lumbering this role onto the CIO might not be sustainable, she said at the time, as data is growing exponentially and needs someone accountable for one of the most important assets of an organisation.
Gartner found that many CDOs are experiencing resistance from the IT department over who controls and governs the information assets.
However, the CIO has a key role in helping the CDO implement metadata initiatives to help interoperability and sharing of databases.
“Metadata is one of the critical components for ensuring that individual information investments can be linked, are aligned and can leverage each other,” Gartner said in its report Predicts 2016: Information Strategy.
“Lack of agreement on common metadata standards across organisational business units is attributable to disengagement with enterprise information governance, rather than enabling technology.”
Data visualisation maps can be used to help make better decisions around classification and information governance, Gartner suggested, with file analysis being useful for understanding unstructured data, including where it resides and who can access it.
While the number of CDOs are growing, Gartner predicts only half of them will be successful. Most will be learning on the job and getting adjusted to the business side of their role and convincing the c-suite, evolving from just a ‘data geek’.
"This raises a political aspect to the role — building trust and relationships in the organisation will be important to achieving success,” said Mario Faria, research vice president at Gartner.
"The success of a CDO will to a large extent depend on his or her ability to lead the change as well as gain the enthusiasm, support and resources of business leaders and other key business units."