90% of large organisations will have a chief data officer by 2019 – Gartner

‘It's a logical step to create an executive position — the CDO — to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from industrial-scale collection and harnessing of data’

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The race to drive competitive advantage and improved efficiency through better use of information assets is leading to a sharp rise in the number of chief data officers (CDOs), according to Gartner.

As a result, the analyst firm has predicted that 90” of large companies will have a CDO role by the end of 2019.

CDOs will face a number of challenges, to the extent that only 50% will be successful by the end of 2019, Gartner said.

One challenge is that the role will be new in most organisations and many CDOs will be learning on the job.

>See also: The UK’s top 50 data leaders and influencers

CDOs will have the difficult task of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that tie the activities of their team to measurable business outcomes.

"Business leaders are starting to grasp the huge potential of digital business, and demanding a better return on their organisations' information assets and use of analytics," said Mario Faria, research VP at Gartner. "It's a logical step to create an executive position — the CDO — to handle the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from industrial-scale collection and harnessing of data."

"With the explosion of datasets everywhere, an important task is determining which information can add business value, drive efficiency or improve risk management. A CDO's role will raise expectations of better results from an enterprise information management strategy, with stakeholders wanting a clear idea of the exact mechanics of making success a reality."

Many CDOs already report high levels of change resistance, particularly from the IT department, over the control of information assets and their governance.

The confluence of high expectations and limited knowledge around information management by business users can also make it difficult for CDOs to get the budget and commitment from the business they need to make their plans a success.

Those CDOs that are successful do an effective job of working with the CIO to lead change and overcome resistance, according to Gartner.

"This raises a political aspect to the role,” said Faria, research VP at Gartner. “Building trust and relationships in the organisation will be important to achieving success.

>See also: Want to be a data leader? Here are 8 attributes you'll need

Gartner has revealed six recommendations for new CDOs to help them overcome common challenges.

1. Create an enterprise information management strategy based on the organisation's business strategy and predominant value discipline

2. Work tirelessly to build trust with various business stakeholders, especially the CIO

3. Educate senior leaders and peers about the role that data and information play in overall business success

4. Establish baselines on information governance and data monetisation from which progress can be measured

5. Tie quantifiable information metrics to quantifiable business key performance indicators to demonstrate tangible success

6. Adopt formal information asset measures and share them with the organisation

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