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5/19/2021
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Chief Data Officers Help Steer Digital Transformations

Chief Data Officers are prioritizing data quality, ROI from data and analytics investments, and data sharing.



momius via Adobe Stock
momius via Adobe Stock

The pandemic and a year of work-from-anywhere initiatives at companies made it clear that cloud computing is not only here to stay but also represents the future of IT. Digital transformation accelerated during this past year. But what about data and analytics? What is the Chief Data Officer's role in this pandemic and post-pandemic era?

A new survey from Gartner reveals that 72% of data and analytics leaders are either leading or are heavily involved in their organizations' digital transformation initiatives. Gartner presented the results of the chief data officer survey this month during the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit.

"The goal is to create a business strategy that is infused with data and analytics, not a data strategy or an analytics strategy," said Gareth Herschel, analyst and research director at Gartner in his keynote address during the virtual event.

Here's how the numbers break down in terms of digital transformation.

About a quarter of data and analytics leaders -- 24% of respondents -- said they are leading their organization's digital transformation efforts, according to the survey of 469 chief data officers, chief analytics officers, and other high-level data and analytics leaders from around the world. Another 48% of data and analytics leaders said they were heavily involved in their organization's digital transformation initiatives. Gartner said that the boundaries between chief data officers and chief digital officers are becoming more blurred. Maybe that's because data is so intertwined in digital business.

These data and analytics leaders will find that digital initiatives have become more important than ever before. A separate survey of 465 CEOs and other senior business executives conducted by Gartner found that these leaders are prioritizing "digital" as they look out to the post-pandemic business environment. In an open-ended question about priorities, 20% mentioned "digital" without being prompted. What's more, in another finding that points to the importance of data and analytics in the months and years ahead, these leaders said that artificial intelligence will be the most "industry-impactful technology."

How can data and analytics leaders better align with their CEOs' vision? What makes a chief data officer successful in the eyes of the business and an organization's other executives?

The most valued chief data officers are those who have business-facing KPIs and make those their priority. The data and analytics survey showed that the the top priorities among data and analytics leaders are data quality (51%), ROI from data and analytics investments (44%), and data sharing (43%). But succeeding at those important priorities is just the first step, according to Gartner.

"It's not enough to manage data and create insights," said Debra Logan, research VP at Gartner. "These activities must deliver measurable business outcomes. Data sharing is the way to optimize higher quality data and more robust data and analytics to solve business challenges and goals. Data sharing is an important KPI and a business necessity. It accelerates digital business transformation."

That will be important in 2021 and 2022 as more CEOs are anticipating an economic boom (60%) than stagnation (40%), according to the CEO survey.

CEO priorities in the survey show confidence, according to research VP Mark Raskino.

"This year all leaders will be working hard to decode what the post-pandemic world looks like and redeveloping mid- to long-range business strategy accordingly," he said. "In most cases that will uncover a round of new structural changes to capability, location, products, and business models."

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Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: ... View Full Bio

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