Can the Chief Data Officer Help Everyone Just Get Along?

Loraine Lawson
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Top Predictions for Big Data in 2014

Here’s a humbling prediction for IT: By 2018, the CMO’s IT budget could “outstrip” the CIO’s budget, according to Gartner.

And that’s fine with CMOs, who now see marketing as the natural home for Big Data projects, according to a recent Harvard Business Review Blog post written by Jesko Perrey and Matt Ariker of McKinsey & Company.

Predictably enough, CIOs see the situation a bit differently. But the naked truth is that both CMOs and CIOs “are on the hook for turning all that data into above-market growth,” Perrey and Ariker note.


Yesterday, I wrote about Big Data as a disruptive technology and, therefore, a disruptive force on corporate leadership. One thing that’s already changing is that analysts are seeing a new role, the chief data officer, emerge.

But reading the recent HBRB post, it sounds like a more pressing problem is the disruption going on between CMOs and CIOs.

Ideally, they would be partners, but you know how that goes when money is involved. Perrey and Ariker say the relationship “has often been a fractious one.”

It’s obvious why: In all the enterprise, it’s hard to imagine two divisions with more of a culture clash. Marketing moves fast and turns quickly, and they expect their data to do the same. IT, on the other hand, tends to move more cautiously, even if technology change does not.

They also tend to speak different languages, the post notes, giving rise to the need for “marketing/IT translators,” the post notes.

SAP addresses that communication gap by assigning a Business Information Officer (BIO) for each business unit, including SAP Marketing, according to SAP CMO Jonathan Becher.

“The BIO must understand and translate business strategy into an IT enterprise architecture strategy and help guide technology investments,” Becher is quoted as saying.

The McKinsey writers list a number of other ways CIOs and CMOs can work together peacefully and effectively, most of which require them to, you know, talk on a regular basis and such. But what the article doesn’t discuss is how a chief data officer might help alleviate this struggle.

So far, CDOs have primarily appeared in financial services organizations, where they help with compliance and regulatory requirements, according to Information Age.

Maybe it’s time to transition to something more strategic by aligning data projects more closely with strategic goals.

“…, successful CDOs are increasingly drawing on a range of skills, both technical and interpersonal, to achieve their goals of bringing data to the heart of the business,” Information Age states.

Still, in some cases, one person may not be able to handle both sides of the equation, the article notes.

In those situations, companies might want to consider creating a Big Data center of excellence or competency center to bring all parties together.



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