The world of commerce is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Data is seen as the key to navigating this landscape, but how well prepared are CDOs and their organisations to do so?

The survey of 80 CDOs has been conducted by Eddie Short, global lead consulting partner and CDO of multiple international companies, in collaboration with Data Leaders as part of an academic study into the role of data in achieving sustained and sustainable competitive advantage.

CDO survey finds:

  • Only a fraction of organisations are effectively organised to leverage data.
  • CDOs face challenges in asserting their influence within the C-suite, particularly in aligning with CFOs and IT.
  • Despite recognising data as a critical asset, a substantial number of leaders do not base decisions on data, revealing a gap in data-driven culture and decision-making.

In today’s business landscape, the concept of a VUCA world—characterised by its volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—has become increasingly prevalent. Navigating this environment requires organisations to have a new level of adaptability and resilience.

Against this backdrop, the role of data and analytics is paramount, more so with the advent of AI and generative AI technologies. Data is the primary means for improving people, process and technology performance. When harnessed to its full potential, it can enable organisations to reach a state of perpetual evolution, able to adapt dynamically to changing market conditions.

For this to happen, however, organisations must embed data, both technologically and even more importantly, culturally at the core of their decision-making processes.

The results of the CDO survey give an indication of where they are in their journey to becoming an “Intelligent Business”.

Survey Insights

Two circle graphs, one highlighting that 30% of respondents think that the company is organised effectively and the other showing that 35% of respondents think that the data organisation is the right size and scale.

The Current State of Data Readiness

The survey of CDOs sheds light on the current landscape of data readiness among organisations.

While there are encouraging signs of progress in areas like governance and skill development, significant gaps remain. For instance, only a minority of organisations are perceived as effectively organised to leverage data. This highlights a pressing need for structural and strategic reforms to fully unlock the potential of data analytics.

Challenges in CDO Influence and Organisational Alignment

One notable finding from the survey is the limited influence CDOs currently have within the executive leadership. The alignment between CDOs and other C-suite executives, especially CFOs and IT leaders, remains a challenge. This misalignment can hinder the integration of a data-driven culture and the strategic deployment of data analytics across the organisation.

Two charts side-by-side Chart 1 shows the percentage of respondents who agree that there is clear alignment and support in the delivery of capabilities. 45% agree that's true with the CFO, 59% with the business leader and 27% with the IT Leader. Chart two shows that 39% of respondents think that their data and analytics leader is a peer of other C-suite leaders in helping to determine how the business should allocate its resources.

Advancing Towards a Data-Driven Culture

Despite recognising the importance of data, many organisations still fall short in fostering a data-driven culture. The survey reveals that a significant proportion of business leaders do not base their decisions on data analytics. This gap underscores the need for a cultural shift that prioritises data literacy and champions data-driven decision-making at all levels of the organisation.

36% of survey respondents think their business leaders base decisions off of data.

The Path Forward: Dynamic Capabilities and Data Governance

To navigate a VUCA world effectively, organisations must develop dynamic capabilities that leverage data for sensing and seizing opportunities. The findings suggest a need for improvement in how organisations adjust and reconfigure their processes in response to changing priorities. Additionally, while progress has been made in data governance and utilisation, further efforts are required to democratise data access and establish a robust data architecture.

Data Science, Machine Learning, and the Road Ahead

The survey also points to significant opportunities for growth in data science and machine learning initiatives. Although there is progress, the constraints of time and resource allocation often limit the potential impact of these projects. Enhancing organisational support for data science and machine learning is essential for unlocking innovative solutions and driving competitive advantage.

36% of respondents think their data science and machine learning projects are given enough time to deliver results.


The survey highlights crucial gaps in organisational readiness to leverage data to thrive in a VUCA world. A lack of structural and strategic alignment, compounded by the challenges CDOs face in asserting their influence within the C-suite signals a pressing need for a cultural paradigm shift.

The journey to becoming an “Intelligent Business” is fraught with challenges. However, as my research intends to demonstrate, there is a pathway to building the dynamic capabilities required to achieve data-enabled sustained and sustainable competitive advantage.

To follow the progress of this research, connect with Eddie via the Data Leaders hub or LinkedIn.

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