As organizations continue to transition towards increased use of Big Data and of analysts who can understand and use this data, some larger companies are finding the need for managerial oversight to help guide this data-analysis process.
Enter the Chief Data Officer (CDO): An upper-level manager who bears overall responsibility for an organization’s data collection, control, policy, analysis and understanding. By bridging the gap between data analysis and its exploitation by company decision-makers, CDOs are the key figures in a team that plays a crucial role in informing and guiding company aims and operations.
As the person responsible for the overall vision and performance of an organization’s data analysis department, the Chief Data Officer holds a crucial managerial role. CDOs facilitate the work of the analysts working for them by ensuring that data is readily available, guiding the focus and aims of data analysis in the context of specific useful insights, and communicating the importance of data and its findings to other key stakeholders.
CDOs operate under the context of local and national regulations in terms of understanding what is or is not obtainable as data, and are responsible for ensuring that the information they collect is legal and transparent. This often involves working towards open data and advocating policies that permit a consistent flow of information and minimal hindrances to its use in business.
CDOs also lead company efforts to obtaining new data by ensuring that data-collection methods are current and efficient. To the extent that it is possible, CDOs strive to minimize costs in this collection process in order to help build a sustainable, long-term data-collection infrastructure. They are also responsible for the quality of the data gained therein, as well as its overall utility in analysis and ultimately the strength of the conclusions drawn from data.
As a relatively new field, Chief Data Officer’s tend to lack historical salary trends and detailed projections. That said, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains data on a number of closely related professions, including that of a “computer and information systems manager.” For this position, the median salary was $135,800 in May 2016.
Employment prospects and salary ranges typically vary based on an individual’s work history, location and educational qualifications.
As an upper-level position, CDOs generally hold strong educational credentials. Some professionals have noted a trend towards those with PhDs in data science, computer science, statistics or a related field. It is worth noting that a PhD is not a strict requirement, however: A professional with a lesser degree and strong, related work experience can also find themselves in a CDO position.
With the growing use and importance of data in organizations across industries, more companies are finding themselves in need of the specialized managerial experience of a qualified CDO.
From 2014 to 2015, Gartner, Inc. has reported an increase in the number of CDOs employed by large organizations from 400 to 1000. By 2019, Gartner predicts that 90% of large companies will utilize the services of CDOs as part of their upper management teams, ensuring healthy career prospects for those interested in this specific combination of data analysis and managerial oversight.