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Outsourced Chief Data Officer

What is a CDO?

The first Chief Data Officer (CDO) position was created inside Capital One in 2002. The number of companies having such a role today varies depending on which source you use — between 21% and 74% of those polled.


The CDO is a tangible representation of a company’s commitment to being data-driven. Many companies use this phrase as a tagline, mission, value, or internal mantra. However, few are able to achieve it. CDO roles can be mistakenly tucked under the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO), keeping the role of data subservient to the tools that produce and rely on it. Companies with a Chief Data Officer elevate the value of data to C-level attention and establish it as a value center for the business.

The 7 Roles of a CDO

In the current world of business intelligence, companies are drowning in data and unsure of which buzzwords to follow in the industry. A CDO helps cut through the noise, tie business strategy to data strategy, and be a champion for data as the company’s most valuable asset. This means taking on multiple roles.

Dive into the multiple roles.

Chief Data and Analytics OfficerA CDO in this capacity manages analytics, data science, and artificial intelligence functions. A lot of big organizations, like GM and Walmart, have CDOs in this role. The primary driver here is to enhance the ways their organization can extract value from its data assets.

Data Entrepreneur As more organizations understand the value of data, a CDO is in the best position to work cross-functionally with the business to monetize that data. This may include selling it, using it internally, or leveraging it to build new products and open new lines of business.

Data DefenderWhile a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is more often tasked with this role, a CDO must have an eye open to potential data breaches, fraud, and malicious attacks.

Another use of the term defender puts the CDO in the role of data champion–that is, providing the executive backing for clean, usable, and business-relevant data across the organization.

Data DeveloperMany CDOs will have previous experience in data engineering, data science, or data analytics. They know the ropes. They understand what it takes to deliver results to the business, so they can manage expectations from the business and support the data team.

Data ArchitectA CDO must have a handle on the engineering processes and pipelines that deliver data to an organization’s various systems of record and make it available for front-end business intelligence (BI) applications.

Data GovernorCDOs commonly oversee data governance programs in the organization. This may include securing support from the C-suite to implement the programs, chairing the data governance board, and hiring/directing key staff.

Data EthicistThis role is becoming more visible and important as the value of data is better understood. The CDO oversees how data is collected, stored, protected, shared, and controlled. They may have experience in human subjects research and understand the ethics of collecting this information. They understand that raw data can be interpreted differently by different audiences and its role as an instrument of power in society.

Why Outsource a CDO?

Most often, a CDO must be a change agent from outside the business in order to objectively and holistically see the organization’s data practices. They must stand apart from an established CTO or CIO in order to represent the critical role data plays in the business.

  • You aspire to be data-driven but don’t know where to start
  • You know data quality is important but lacking
  • You have a CEO, CIO, CTO, COO, or CISO…but not a CDO
  • You have a data team but struggle to produce relevant insights
  • You have multiple systems that run the business and don’t know what to do with the data they produce
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