What Does A CDO Actually Do?

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Thanks to the growing security and financial value of data in the corporate world, more and more companies have added chief data officers. But what exactly does the person in that role do?

’It turns out, not too surprisingly, there are lots of different views of it,’ said MIT Professor and IT consultant Stuart Madnick.

Madnick highlighted a definition from Wikipedia describing the role as ’a corporate officer responsible for enterprisewide governance and utilization of information,’ but said those responsibilities are only the tip of the iceberg for most CDOs.

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According to Madnick, who has written extensively on the subject of data governance and consulted on projects with IBM and AT&T, there are eight roles CDOs typically play: coordinator, reporter, architect, ambassador, analyst, marketer, developer and experimenter.

’Pretty much all of those things are being done by any CDO [but] you can’t be doing all of them at equal intensity at any given time,’ Madnick said.

Madnick said CDOs’ roles are incredibly flexible because they have usually been brought in during a crisis, and they tend to become the corporate officers depended on to put out fires. Once the initial emergencies die down, Madnick said, CDOs should expect their roles to fluctuate as much as five times over a decade of work.