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Where Do The Roles Of The CIO And CDO Begin And End?

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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With the increasing importance of data someone needs to take control of it, but who?

The chief information officer (CIO) seems to have been around since the creation of the first byte, but the role is always evolving.

And with the ever-increasing importance of data in business the chief data officer (CDO) has emerged. Now, the roles are often blurred, often causing a great deal of confusion in organisations.

We’ve picked the brains of industry experts to find out just how seriously organisations are taking data, and what the CIO and CDO roles are in relation to that.

Jason Foster, CEO of Cynozure

data centre“As a company that helps organisations get the most from their data, 10 years ago the conversation we had with our clients revolved around talking to them about what data is about and how it can add value.

“These days people just know that data is important. They might not know what to do with it or how to do it, but with businesses like Uber and Facebook that are essentially data driven businesses it’s an imperative. Organisations know this.

“So that use of data has become more strategic through organic change within the market and the structure these new organisations have created. Some established businesses have realised their sitting on a lot of data and are thinking there surely must be some value in that.

“They might not really know what that value is yet. Start ups, on the other hand, think they need to start with data then grow their business around it. Some businesses are now hiring CDOs to manage this side of the business, while many companies are asking their CIOs to manage it.”

Barry Green, CDO of Bank of Ireland

“I think the CDO is a business role, not technology role. I also think that the CDO is a conduit for change. If you think about data across the organisation, the CDO is there to collaborate with the CIO, COO, all the Os.

“If you think about the way our business models have worked, it’s around keeping everything tight and controlled. People talk about people processing systems. I think you need to add data to that now because it’s becoming so important and that’s why I think the CDO’s role is so important. It’s more strategic than the CIO’s role and it’s a collaborative role.

“Whether or not an organisation needs a CDO depends on the business and what it does. Everyone’s got data in their business so it just depends how important they think that data is to their business.”

Omid Shiraji, CIO of London Borough of Camden

“From my perspective, the CIO role isn’t a technology role. I think that’s part of the problem. People see it as a technology role and people in my kind of position act like technologists rather than as part of the organisation itself.

“There’s that separation. The ‘i’ stands for information, right, which is the exploitation of data to deliver some kind of value.

“So people like me in my type of role have got to be evangelising and explaining to the organisation how using data could significantly deliver better outcomes or help the organisation transform in a way it probably doesn’t know how to.

“I probably have a differing view of the role of the CDO. I agree it is quite a collaborative role and my personal view is that if you treat data like money you do need a steward at the C level to kind of own that but it’s everyone’s responsibility.

“What’s interesting at a local authority is that you’ve got this political dynamic where elected officials have an influence over the policy and delivery of the council. So, for us, the elected official and the chief exec act as the catalysts around the use of data. So it’s not just me. It’s coming right from the very top of the organisation.”

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