Can CIOs act as the CDOs for organizations today? Or do companies really need a separate CDO who can partner with the business and IT to drive digital transformation?”

7.5k views5 Upvotes33 Comments

Board Member, Former CIO in Software, 10,001+ employees
First, worth clarifying if we are talking Chief DIGITAL or Chief DATA Officer.

In either case, while I used to think that the existence of the CDO meant that the CIO was failing at their jobs, in  today's world, I think the roles are distinctly different, though in the end it really depends on the people. 

CDOs as digital officers are really focused on the digital transformation of their companies, and inherently have an external focus.  CDOs as data officers are focused on key information management within the company - optimizing data as an asset.  The CIO at many companies predominantly focused on internal operations, business and user productivity.

The skillsets needed and more importantly, the incentives for these objectives are often different.  Intertwining them is possible, but I think in many cases companies are better served by having a separate focus.  

All of that is dependent on whom we are talking about both in terms of people and the business.  The people matter even more in this question than anything.  A company with a super strong CIO working for a digitally minded CEO probably doesn't benefit from a CDO nearly as much as an internally focused CIO working in a business with complex operations that has also recently decided to transform the delivery of their products to include more digital delivery would.  

So in the end, I think it really depends.
Chief Information Officer in Healthcare and Biotech, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Traditionally, data management and governance have functions assigned to CIOs. But as organizations embark on digital transformation of how business is done data needs have changed. Many organizations were not getting the competitive advantage or maximum outcomes from data management processes despite having the CIO responsible for data management. The Chief Data Officer position has emerged as part of an organization’s digital transformation work and a way to allow an organization to focus on fostering a data-driven orientation to business strategy.

CIOs continue to have distinct responsibilities such as leading IT operations, driving technology strategy and implementing procedures for technology use. The CDO role allows a singular focus on data quality and governance. As a result, many organizations are separating the two roles. While the CDO and CIO roles can be different, both are focused on demonstrating the value of data and looking for better ways to analyze data. However, the trend to separate the CDO role from the CIO role will likely continue as organizations continue to look for ways to better monetize data.
Senior Information Security Manager in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
It really depends on the size of the organization, and how crucial data/IT is to it.


For a firm of under 500 employees, I can’t see it having these two separate roles. But some companies of even 100 employees, especially in the financial services sector, dealing with very risky IT environments, may indeed need these roles filled by 2 separate people.
6 1 Reply
Director of IT in Finance (non-banking), 5,001 - 10,000 employees

I agree and it depends on the size of the organization. If the firm has more than 500 employees, than it should have to different positions. If it is a financial services company, then this should be implemented no matter how many employees that have on staff. Most companies and corporations today should highly focus on cyber security due to the amount of attacks and security breaches we are all facing today and it's only getting worse for sure.

CEO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
If D is for Digital in CDO I believe the CIO should act as a Chief Digital Officer if they have the necessary business acumen, (e.g. operations) industry knowledge and skill set to be effective collaborators and business partners. In that role the CIO would be able to separate digital enablers (technology) from outcome driven transformative business models needed to create successful digital business.
Vice President & Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in Software, 10,001+ employees
Depends on the vertical, data, applications...don’t think it is that binary.
Deputy Chief Engineer(Information Technology) in Energy and Utilities, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
Although scenario now demands a greater degree of digital transformation, the biggest reason for existence of 2 posts woul be the size of organization, and the need for two separate roles as per their future roadmap. I have believed that CIO and CDO should be one and same and though, things have changed a lot, I still think that for most organizations, it should still be one person only.
Head of Business Technology in Software, 201 - 500 employees
As the CIO role continues to expand and becoming public-facing and being part of the board comes with additional responsibilities. That is where I see the CDO (Digital) role come in place. In my opinion, when and if the CDO role is needed, it should be reporting to the CIO to take up digital initiatives to transform traditional organizations.
GM, Global Technology Services in Consumer Goods, 2 - 10 employees
I think this really depends on the person sitting within the roles and whether they can handle both the more traditional aspects along with the growth mindset that the CDO typically requires. Also the organisational size and appetite to have these roles separate from each other is another consideration.
CIO / Managing Partner in Manufacturing, 2 - 10 employees
Generally speaking a CDO is what a good CIO should be covering. Often the companies that have found they need a CDO don’t have the right CIO in place.
Director of Information Security in Energy and Utilities, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
For most organizations that's a reality where CIO acts as CDO. Its still fairly rare that you see that there is a CDO within an organization and if there's one I have seen that they actually report to CIO and not other C-level folks. I'm still not 100% sure on what are the exact benefits of having CDO if your CIO is doing a good job because they will address most of the challenges that CDO role calls for.

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