Why Only Half of CDOs Are Poised for Success

How chief data officers can tackle formidable roadblocks including people, culture and internal resistance.

If your business has made the decision to create a chief data officer (CDO) role, congratulations!

Now, get ready for some sobering statistics: Through 2019, 90% of large organizations will have hired a CDO — but of these, only 50% will be hailed a success, according to Mario Faria, managing vice president, Gartner Research.

CDOs face plenty of obstacles. The economy, government regulations and marketplace dynamics are a few examples of external challenges. But internal roadblocks — such as getting the entire organization to get on board with change — are often the most difficult for CDOs to work around.

One CDO’s response to the Gartner Chief Data Officer Survey described the challenge: “Our company is not familiar with data governance and its impacts. My responsibility as a CDO [is] being a change agent. I have to make hard decisions sometimes to get things done.”

“People, culture and internal resistance can create formidable roadblocks,” stressed Mr. Faria. He shared recommendations to help CDOs stay on track with their objectives.

Why Half of CDOs Succeed

Identify and prioritize roadblocks

To be successful, CDOs need to be aware of the roadblocks that they might encounter. Some internal roadblocks cited in the Chief Data Officer Survey:

  • Lack of understanding of the CDO role
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement and support
  • Lack of resources and funding to support the programs
  • Lack of focus in defining the most important initiatives
  • Not enough authority to execute responsibilities

One responsibility of the office of the CDO might be creating an information governance board. But does the office have the authority to require members to attend? As questions and issues like this surface, it will become clearer to the CDO which roadblocks should be priorities.

Our company is not familiar with data governance and its impacts. My responsibility as a CDO [is] being a change agent. I have to make hard decisions sometimes to get things done.

Determine the root causes of roadblocks

With a list of prioritized roadblocks in hand, CDOs should explore why each one exists. If members appointed to the information governance board aren’t showing up to meetings, is this because they don’t understand the purpose of meetings? Do they feel that meetings are creating an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy? Is it clear to all members how the office of the CDO affects each line of business? Next, map the blockers. They might be internal stakeholders, partners, clients, suppliers or even the government.

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Create an action plan

Start with the highest-priority roadblocks, and use change management as a tool to overcome resistance. Focus on positive business outcomes. Track this as you would any other internal project, and keep your internal team apprised of how it’s progressing. Also have a corresponding map of the company’s key influencers. Their support and endorsement of the plan is critical.

Gartner clients can learn more by reading How to Overcome Critical Roadblocks to Succeed as Chief Data Officer by Mario Faria, et al.

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