Infographic of the four CDO leadership roles as described in the Voice of the CDO report by Data Leaders.

In today’s data-driven world, Chief Data Officers (CDOs) are stepping into increasingly pivotal roles within organisations. They are not just operational experts but strategic leaders who play crucial roles in driving business transformation, guiding organisations through uncertainty, stewarding sound decision-making, and ensuring good data practices.

In this blog post, we’ll explore these four distinct leadership roles of CDOs as outlined in the Voice of the Chief Data Officer report and understand how they are shaping the future of data-driven enterprises.

1. Business Transformation Leader

In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, businesses must adapt or risk obsolescence. CDOs are at the forefront of this transformation, leading the charge by harnessing the power of data and artificial intelligence. Their role extends far beyond managing data infrastructure; they are instrumental in aligning data strategies with overarching business objectives. By identifying opportunities for innovation and efficiency, CDOs drive initiatives that can revolutionise products, services, and processes.

CDOs also play a crucial role in fostering a data-centric culture within their organisations. They encourage data literacy among employees, ensuring that data-driven decision-making becomes second nature. As businesses evolve, CDOs serve as champions of change, guiding their teams through digital transformations that result in sustainable growth and competitive advantage.

“The role is not just that of an operational leader, which a lot of CDOs can become, but to have a balance of technical ability and strong business skills to be able to make change happen,” explains Tembi Hommes, Group CDO, Arup.

2. Guide Through Uncertainty

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, uncertainty is the only constant. The rise of data, coupled with technological disruptions, creates both opportunities and challenges. CDOs must possess not only technical expertise but also a high degree of emotional intelligence to navigate this uncertain terrain.

The ability to build trust-based relationships is paramount. CDOs work collaboratively with cross-functional teams to understand and address complex business challenges. By leveraging their emotional intelligence, they bridge the gap between data and human insights to deliver future-proof solutions.

As Eddie Short, Chief Data Officer, MidEuropa describes: It’s neither your data nor your technology that will lead to sustained competitive advantage, but how you use it. Only by working with other people in the organisation to understand the customer can you put data together and get the multiplying factor that transforms the business.”

3. Steward of Sound Decision Making

CDOs are instrumental in promoting data-informed decision cultures within their organisations. However, this task is not without its challenges with executives still relying on experience and intuition to made decisions over data.

CDOs must lead the charge in training individuals to become aware of their biases and minimise their influence on decisions. They also play a central role in fostering robust decision-making practices by promoting self-awareness and nurturing a culture of open conversation. Data should be positioned not as a replacement for intuition but as a tool to enhance decision-making, empowering leaders to make better-informed choices.

“The CDO’s role is to influence the company to improve decision-making,” asserts Matt Jeffries, Group Chief, Analytics Officer, Pepper Finance.

4. Guardian of Good Data Practices

The recently enacted European Union Data Act places even greater responsibility on CDOs to secure data privacy guarantees and create controlled environments. CDOs are at the forefront of addressing data quality, governance, and ethics concerns while also assessing how regulations may impact business models.

By championing data ethics and maintaining data quality and accuracy, they mitigate the risks associated with data misuse and uphold their organisations’ reputations. At the same time, CDOs must flag both opportunities and threats to the business arising from regulations.

The CDO will need to achieve a balance between the risk versus opportunity and to understand the impact of legislation on the business,” explains George Gouveia, Head of Data, Analytics & AI, Solvay.

To download the full Voice of the Chief Data Officer, click here.


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