Data-Driven Organizations: What are Principal Responsibilities of Successful Chief Data Officers

Confused about the role of the chief data officer? You're not alone!

Is the CDO the owners, steward, and driver to meet regulations on GDPR, PII, HIPAA, FINRA, KYC, CPRA, and the alphabet soup of other compliance requirements? 

Does the CDO oversee data-related audits, or are they stakeholders to them?

Chief Data Officers in Data-Driven Organizations by Isaac Sacolick

Is the CDO responsible for sourcing new data sources, data integration, data quality, master data management, and other dataops functions?

Who directs the selection and implementation of data catalogs and data dictionaries?

Who is responsible for classifying data, overseeing data security, and leading the organization's protection and response to ransomware attacks?

When selecting cloud databases and data lakes. When defining schemas, naming conventions, access paths, and APIs - is this part of the CDO's responsibility? Or is the CDO a stakeholder?

Rolling out a citizen data science center of excellence? Are the governance around the program and the success factors the CDO's responsibility?

Is your CDO also your organization's privacy officer?

Data lineage? CSat? End-user analytics? Automation?

Jamie Kiser, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Customer Officer, Talend believes CDO must focus on the organization's data health. She explains, “A Chief Data Officer has the primary responsibility for an organization’s Data Health and providing clarity around the overall reliability, risk, and return of corporate information. To drive toward strong data health and optimize the value data delivers for the business, CDOs must establish a holistic system of preventative measures, effective treatments, and a supportive culture that realizes and sustains the promise of actionable and timely insights across the organization.” 

Myles Suer, CIOChat Facilitator, eWeek Contributor, and Director of Solutions Marketing at Alation believes CDOs need a comprehensive strategy. He adds, “While it is not yet clear where the CDO function will be permanently housed, the role of CDO has become clear. By combining what Tom Davenport labeled as data defense and data offense, the role is about making sure that organizations create great data, that this data is governed, secured, and accessible; and that the data is produced into descriptive analytics and predictive analytical models.”

Matthew Monahan, Director of Product Management at Zaloni, stresses the CDOs role in defining policies, providing business users access, and ensuring responsible data uses. He says, "A Chief Data Officer is responsible for defining the policies and practices for how data is handled and leveraged within an organization. It is the CDO’s role to ensure that any employee who has a proper business need for data can access it quickly and easily while preventing any improper use of the data. This includes maximizing the business value of data while adhering to any relevant regulations."

Where does the CDO's Role Begin and End

Some CDOs will check all the boxes and answer yes to all the responsibilities I identified, and then probably add a bunch more that I left out. Other CDOs work collaboratively with CIOs, Chief Analytics Officers, Chief Data Scientists, and a slew of other C-level execs who own or share data and analytics responsibilities.

The role, responsibilities, and priorities can be very different in each organization. But here are some interesting stats I picked out from recent research on The Evolving Role of CDO in Financial Organizations sponsored by InterSystems

  • 87% are implementing strategic data management initiatives to boost profitability and improve customer outcomes
  • 83% of CDOs say compliance is now either a secondary concern to business improvement or is fully automated
  • 63% of CDOs are pursuing an analytics-driven business strategy through an offensive approach to data management

Scott Gnau, VP of Data Platforms at InterSystems, also acknowledges the varying roles of the CDO. He says, "Much like the CTO, the CDO title can mean many different things depending on a company's strategy or makeup, but one thing that’s common across all of those is showing the value of data across the entire organization."

StarCIO Take: CDO Role in Data-Driven Orgs

I aim to simplify, so I share some of the top CDO responsibilities in data-driven organizations in my recent episode of 5 minutes with @NYIke. Watch below!

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.