To many observers, the role of chief data officer (CDO) seems to have suddenly leapt onto the roster of executive ranks. While the notion of the CDO goes back perhaps two decades, our research finds the “suddenness” perception holds true: in 2022, 44 percent of organizations had appointed a CDO or chief analytics officer (CAO)—twice as many as organizations had in 2021 (see the Dresner Advisory Services 2022 Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Study).
As more organizations elevate and appoint a CDO to their executive ranks, one central question becomes the CDO’s place in reporting hierarchy.
As it applies to reporting structure and authority, we can relate trends and offer a snapshot of early sentiment, but few certainties for “the one” best path to CDO reporting success. Most of our early observations are suggestive: CDOs most often report directly to the CEO; CDOs in very large organizations are more likely to report to the CIO; and CDOs who report to the CEO may be more technical and likely to take an intermediary role in delegating activities related to leveraging enterprise data.
These data points are helpful. But rather than marching orders, we consider these and other broad findings in this report as guideposts and talking points that leadership needs to weigh in the process of determining to what role the CDO should report. As we found when examining CDO activities and CDO technical orientation—see the Research Insights “The Top CDO Activities: Govern, Communicate, Align” and “The Importance of CDO Technical Expertise“—most organizations must find their own best reporting plan amid variables that include existing leadership structure, data culture, organization size, infrastructure maturity, critical business challenges, immediate business need, and other determinants. Decision authority represents yet another consideration. In some organizations, CDO reporting might fall to the oversight of the chief officer who most demands it—though most organizations likely would avoid an arbitrary appointment.
We know anecdotally that CDO duties and authority can vary widely—sometimes instituted in the face of resolving widespread data chaos, in other cases to develop already advanced initiatives in comprehensive technology environments, and at other times simply to provide data leadership that comes from outside the organization, with a purposely divergent set of perspectives and experiences. Such variables will influence reporting structure and the strategic relevance of the CDO, at least in the short term.You do not have permission to access this document. Make sure you are logged in and/or please contact Danielle with further questions.