Chief analytics officer

Chief analytics officer (CAO) is a job title for the senior manager responsible for the analysis of data within an organization, such as a listed company or an educational institution. The CAO often reports to the chief executive officer.

Not many companies currently have the role of Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) defined within their existing c-suite. However this is a fast emerging position that would be pivotal in massive transformation - in the way companies take their business decisions. CAOs not only bring strong data science backed actionable insights to the table, but also own the resulting 'ROI'/'Impact' on both top line and bottom line numbers.[1]

This position, along with that of chief information officer has risen to prominence due to the rise in information technology and data acquisition. The two positions are similar in that both deal with information, but the CIO focuses on the infrastructure required for maintaining and communicating information while the CAO focuses on the infrastructure required for generating and analyzing information. A similar position is that of the chief data officer (CDO); while the CDO focuses on data processing and maintenance, the CAO focuses on providing input into operational decisions on the basis of the analysis. As such, the CAO requires experience in statistical analysis and marketing, finance, or operations. The CAO may be a member of the board of directors of the organization, but this is dependent on the type of organization.

No specific qualification is typical of CAOs in general. Many have advanced degrees in mathematics, statistics, economics, or econometrics but this is by no means universal. Many were analysts in the past.

Changing role of the Chief Data Officer and growth in the Chief Analytics Office

Research* indicates that First Generation CDOs are typically responsible for the following:

  • Assessing the state of the company's data which, more often than not, is in some state of disrepair
  • Developing a data warehouse that acts as a central repository for all of the company's data
  • Defining the data governance, management and ownership frameworks that will ensure data quality is created and maintained
  • Working with business to understand data requirements and then how to provide them with this data - whilst maintaining control (see point above)
  • Assisting in developing reporting tools through BI, visualisation tools, etc.
  • Ensuring compliance to data or sector-specific regulations - this is mostly true in the financial services sector where most companies employ a CDO to make sure that they're compliant to regulations

In addition to these key responsibilities, the First Generation CDO is concerned with communicating his/her value to the organisation, evangelising the importance of data and building business processes to ensure efficient workflows.

These are all the critical, foundation-building baby steps that need to be taken before moving into the next phase or generation of CDO-ship. The CDO is producing step-changes within the organisation's data architecture and usage. Change is big but perhaps does not deliver significant business value.

Second Generation CDOs and the shift into a CAO

Our research has uncovered that, in the second phase, there is almost a shift away from being a CDO toward being a Chief Analytics Officer. The ultimate end goal for data in an organisation is to have the ability to use it to make good decisions in real time.

It's based on this that I assess the Second Generation CDO as being increasingly responsible for, and involved with, advanced business analytics. The first phase was all about getting data in shape for it to be utilised accurately across the business.

It's at this point where the CDO is involved in the optimisation and transformation of the business.

Our research has uncovered that, in the second phase, there is almost a shift away from being a CDO toward being a Chief Analytics Officer. The ultimate end goal for data in an organisation is to have the ability to use it to make good decisions in real time.

Innovation through data!

The Second Generation CDO becomes an integral part of eking out the hard-fought percentages of business improvement and profitability. Innovation across the organisation has come to rely on data. Product innovation takes a look at how the product is performing, who buys it, how it is manufactured etc. to evolve it and keep its competitive edge. None of this could be done without access to good quality data in real time - or at least in a short space of time.

A recent study shows an increasing number of CDO's at the forefront of their company's digital transformation, most likely because data and analytics play such a critical role in digitising a business, and so as a result many Chief Data Officers have moved in Chief Digital Officer roles.

What does the Future Look Like?

It's not easy to predict what the next generation will look like and how they'll act. I don't think Facebook anticipated that the current youngest generation would not be big users of the service.

Data Digest points that out by the development of the CDO - and for that matter the CAO and the Chief Digital Officer. Could they all blend into one? Or will they be obsolete in a few years and replaced with a new emerging C-suite?

For now, we'll keep focused on understanding the different needs of the First Generation and Second Generation of CDOs to ensure we can provide relevant information and networks. It is likely that the next generation will only emerge in 4–5 years time.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2015-01-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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