In recent years, the desire for data-driven insight has greatly increased within organisations. As a consequence, we are witnessing the rise of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) who is charged with unlocking the value of an organisations’ data, enabling them to translate this insight into strategic value for the business.

A recent report from Experian Data Quality showed we are witnessing growing momentum of the ‘data force’ in response to digital empowerment and the exponential growth of data. 70% of CDOs now report directly to the CEO and are firmly taking a position at Board level, driving strategic change from the top. The research titled “Rise of the Data Force” charts the surge of the CDO by bringing together opinions from over 40 CDOs and senior leaders working across various sectors to explore how they use data and its rising importance within their organisation.

This relentless pace of technological change and increasing expectations from customers has meant that businesses need to remain one step ahead. In an ‘always-on’ and highly connected world, businesses understand that many of their traditional operational methods aren’t good enough to keep up and are therefore rethinking these to embrace a digital world. Given the variety of opportunities data presents, it is not surprising we are witnessing this union of activities between digital and data. Established companies are already taking advantage of this convergence by rethinking their business model entirely to accommodate this.

Embedding data at the heart of a business and getting buy-in from the people at all levels requires a culture shift. Great importance is placed on making sure data is weaved into the fabric and ethos of an organisation. Having the complete workforce on board with data changes will drive far more value for those businesses. As the CDO report shows, organisations are investing in professionals who have the mind-set and skills to drive solid results from data as operating models evolve, in order to ensure this buy-in happens. This again is why the ‘data force’ is key.

As the report highlights, the CDO office can take a holistic view of the data in their organisation and drive alignment and normalisation across the business. The CDO is responsible for breaking down traditional silos, which can cost a business thousands in wasted resources or duplicated work, making sure the business is using their data in the most efficient way. By inspiring change, businesses begin to view data as asset which can be used to create new opportunities.

Having a boardroom ‘champion’ to turn the management of data into strategic ‘business as usual’ activity is highly beneficial for organisations. A CDO can discuss data at a business strategy level, aligning it with an organisations’ objectives, and at the same time, present new initiatives or current issues in a simplistic and less technical manner, ensuring that the C-suite understand its importance. Data also provides insight which business leaders might not have seen before or considered. Senior teams then get excited about the opportunity and begin thinking about the business operating with that particular initiative in mind.

The report also highlighted the unquestionable responsibility organisations have when it comes to handling the information available to them with care and integrity. In recent years this has been driven by a shift in customer perception as individuals are more aware of the data held about them. Not considering the ethical angle could have significant financial or brand repercussions. The CDOs in our study all recognised the need for solid ethics and are driving change in this area by appointing a Chief Ethical Officer or establishing of bodies like Data Ethic Councils and Consumer Working Groups in order to make sure all data is handled with the upmost care and respect.

CDOs have an exciting role to play to shape the future of their organisation. The CDO can take a holistic view and unlock the data value to apply the results to various levels of the business – creating a far more powerful organisation. That is why the role of a senior ‘data broker’ has rapidly growing importance for organisations in all sectors. Those who are putting data at the centre stage of their business strategy by taking on a data leader are reaping the rewards and making their business more agile, competitive and forward thinking.

Janani Dumbleton

Janani Dumbleton


Janani Dumbleton, Principal Consultant, Experian Data Quality.