Chief data officers are increasingly asked to help monetise the data companies hold, rather than purely managing and protecting that data, according to Gartner.
The analysts firm has predicted that this focus on “value creation over risk mitigation” will grow over time, as companies look to data bring in new revenue streams.
The shift in attitude is also linked to an increase in budgets for chief data officers’ teams and a greater push for data democratisation - where everyone within a company is encouraged to play around with data.
Valerie Logan, research director at Gartner, told The Register that chief data officers are being seen as “change agents” within companies, who are asked to step up and create communities of new users.
According to a survey of almost 300 data and analytics leaders from different firms around the world, published by Gartner today, more than a third have “increase revenue” as a top three measure of their success.
And respondents said that 45 per cent of their time is spent on value creation and revenue generation, while just 27 per cent is focused on risk mitigation. The remaining time is given over to identifying cost savings and efficiency.
Meanwhile, 86 per cent of respondents put “defining data and analytics strategy for the organisation” as their top responsibility. That’s up from 64 per cent in last year’s survey.
Logan said that many of the original demands of data officers had been accomplished, and the role was “moving from classically defence - risk mitigation and regulation - to one of offence”.
This apparent shift in priorities could be cause for concern - particularly for big biz with reputations to guard, as data breaches make headline splashes and people become more aware of their rights to privacy.
Logan acknowledged this, saying that the survey indicated a shift in balance, but not a decrease in importance of data protection, and that information governance and data protection would always remain a priority for chief data officers.
“At the end of the day, a CDO is only successful if they enable insight on a trusted platform,” she said. “There is a constant defence role, especially with ingestion of new data sources from new providers.”
Chief data officers also have a bigger role to play in training and awareness, Logan said - for instance, as they are asked to enable self-service culture around data, they need to promote responsible and appropriate usage of data.
The survey also indicated that chief data officers are pulling in more cash - the budgets reported in 2017 were on average $8m, 23 per cent more than last year, while 15 per cent of respondents said they had a budget of more than $20m.
However, Logan noted that having a more diverse set of users brought chief data officers new challenges: the survey showed that the two biggest roadblocks for them are the need for culture change and poor data literacy within their firms.
It’s also possible that the push to facilitate wider usage of data across companies is leading to a change in the background that chief data officers have, Logan added.
For instance, this year’s survey shows that 38 per cent of data leaders have a background in the quantitative skills of analytics, data science or business intelligence - the first time this category has come top.
Previously, the role was dominated by people from a data management background; this now makes up 16 per cent - the lowest category. In the middle are people from line of business, making up 26 per cent, and IT roles, at 17 per cent.
Gartner also noted that the role is one of the more diverse of tech-related C-suite positions, with 19 per cent being women and 29 per cent of respondents being under 40. ®