The term Chief Data Officer, CDO, was introduced during the early 2000s. Back then, the key responsibility of the CDO was to handle data governance and compliance. However, the role has evolved quite a bit. One of the chief reasons for this is the growing emphasis on data for the success of the business. Owing to this, Chief Data Officers are now responsible for using data to boost business outcomes.
Starting from the analysis of data to maintaining the quality of data and developing data-related strategies, Chief Data Officers have a lot of responsibilities.
Along with the responsibilities they have, CDOs also face challenges on a daily basis. Ensuring data quality and integrity are the nucleus of the major challenges faced by Chief Data Officers. CDOs from top global companies reveal that their teams spend almost 40% of their time cleaning, integrating, and presenting data.
Apart from data quality and integrity, we have listed out the top 5 challenges faced by Chief Data Officers face.
Top 5 Challenges for Chief Data Officers in 2023
1. Establishing Data Strategy and Direction for their company
As we have discussed already, the Chief Data Officer owns the data and he/she is the steward responsible for data management. Owing to this, the CDO has to head the transformation towards a “data-driven organization”.
The CDO must act as an evangelist, encouraging new ways of thinking about data’s economic value and importance as a foundation for decision-making. CDOs should ask and lead disruptive questions about how data may be used within a business at their finest. Some of the questions that they need to address are –
- Do you need physical storefronts if you have fantastic data on your customers, products, and suppliers, for example?
- Is it in some way possible to use data from hospitals to come up with a new solution that could address the existing discrepancies in patient care?
- Can the city heads make use of existing databases and data gathered from CCTVs to cut down crime and improve response times?
- Is there a possibility for fashion companies to repurpose customer-behavioral content to come up with innovative products and revenue streams?
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2. Data security
As data becomes the nucleus of organizations across the world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage it and ensure its security. For Chief Data Officers, data security is a challenge that should be addressed on priority. time and again, we have seen a number of data security breaches that have left a significant impact on businesses. An example of a security breach in recent times is the attack on Microsoft in March 2021. The attack had impacted over 30,000 organizations across the US. The companies impacted included government agencies, local businesses, and local governments.
Another example is the Facebook Data Breach which happened in April 2021. In the attack, hackers gained access to the personal information of over 533 million people.
One key reason for such breaches is the increasing popularity of open source technologies. Developers choose to download open source software despite their security vulnerabilities. According to a Sonatype report published in 2021, ‘Open source cyberattacks increasing by 650%’.
Considering such vulnerabilities, attacks, and the impact they have, CDOs need to raise their vigilance and keep up with the security of data by developing strategies to ensure the best possible security for the organizations’ data.
3. Measuring success
While the role of a Chief Data Officer is of great importance, there is currently no definitive way to measure the impact or the effectiveness of the role. It has to be understood that ‘the link between data and income or influence in a company is almost always indirect and covers longer time periods’. Another point to note is that businesses do not sell data, rather, they use the data to make appropriate decisions related to their products or services.
Considering this, stakeholders may be apprehensive to give it (the CDO’s role) the support it deserves. To address this challenge, Chief Data Officers, CDOs, must develop precise measurements against their goals from the beginning of their work in order to present a competitive advantage.
4. Integrating data across multiple silos
Current day businesses depend a lot on data to ensure high performance and success. Today’s business leaders are seeking a unified 360-degree view of their data — a single screen from which to assess and evaluate their operations. Whether it’s data on business performance and shareholder value for the CEO, financial planning and reporting for the CFO, brand and market share for the CMO, or employee data for the Chief HR Officer. And it’s possible that’s the main reason they value Chief Data Officers!
Without the knowledge of where the data is or how to integrate it, it is impossible for CDOs to take up the responsibility of the data held by the organization. However, the fact here is that current-day organizations have to deal with multiple business-driven as well as technical silos.
As a result, marketing data is stored in different brand and consumer databases. For instance, sales data is stored in retail stores and regional sales databases; at the same time, HR data is stored in silos related to employee hiring, performance, benefits, and retention. Consumer data is commonly stored in 36 distinct brand marketing databases, and HR may need to consult 10 different HR systems to have a 360-degree perspective of each employee. In addition to all this, the recent wave of mergers and acquisitions has only added to the complexity of the data integration dilemma.
To address this challenge, CDOs need to use proper tools, streamline their processes and encourage collaboration among teams for better data management.
5. Aligning data strategy with business objectives
There was a time when data was perceived as a back-office function. However, in the past few years, we have seen data become the front and center of business strategy. Considering this, Chief Data Officers have to design data strategies that are well-aligned with business objectives. They need to do all this, while also ensuring the quality of the data as well as the governance issues. To align the data strategy with the business objectives, the CDO has to have a deep understanding of the organization – inside out. With this knowledge, a CDO can align the data and business objectives that lead to the growth of the business, highlights new opportunities for new products and services, and also improve customer engagement. This can be challenging for a CDO to accomplish. However, it is definitely achievable with the support from the team members. At the same time, they should also be accountable for keeping up with the quality of the data in the organization – up and downstream.20
Bonus (5 additional challenges)
Apart from these five challenges, Chief Data Officers also face challenges in terms of –
- Getting the organization to agree on data modernization so they can leverage cloud-based consolidation.
- Scale data management according to the requirement.
- Form a stronger, multi-disciplinary team, that is diverse and inclusive.
- Establishing a data-driven organizational culture.
- Come up with a unified data governance approach that helps classify data across multi-cloud estates.
Shivani is a talented CS manager with the skillsets to elicit, scope and manage end-to-end B2B SaaS project delivery. She has a keen interest in depicting her learnings in customer success by writing resourceful blogs and articles.
Published March 23, 2022, Updated March 31, 2023