Chief data officer

A chief data officer (CDO) is a corporate officer responsible for enterprise-wide governance and utilization of information as an asset, via data processing, analysis, data mining, information trading and other means. CDOs usually report to the chief executive officer (CEO), although depending on the area of expertise this can vary. The CDO is a member of the executive management team and manager of enterprise-wide data processing and data mining.

Role definition

The Chief Data Officer title shares its abbreviation with the Chief Digital Officer but the two are not the same job. The Chief Data Officer has a significant measure of business responsibility for determining what kinds of information the enterprise will choose to capture, retain and exploit and for what purposes.[1] However, the similar-sounding Chief Digital Officer or Chief Digital Information Officer often does not bear that business responsibility, but rather is responsible for the information systems through which data is stored and processed.

History and evolution

The role of manager for data processing was not elevated to that of senior management prior to the 1980s. As organizations have recognized the importance of information technology as well as business intelligence, data integration, master data management and data processing to the fundamental functioning of everyday business, this role has become more visible and crucial. This role includes defining strategic priorities for the company in the area of data systems and opportunities, identifying new business opportunities pertaining to data, optimizing revenue generation through data, and generally representing data as a strategic business asset at the executive table.

With the rise in service-oriented architectures (SOA), large-scale system integration, and heterogeneous data storage/exchange mechanisms (databases, XML, EDI, etc.), it is necessary to have a high-level individual, who possesses a combination of business knowledge, technical skills, and people skills, guide data strategy. Besides the revenue opportunities, acquisition strategy, and customer data policies, the chief data officer is charged with explaining the strategic value of data and its important role as a business asset and revenue driver to executives, employees, and customers. This contrasts with the older view of data systems as mere back-end IT systems.

More recently, with the adoption of data science the Chief Data Officer is sometimes looked upon as the key strategy person either reporting to the Chief Strategy Officer or serving the role of CSO in lieu of one. This person has the responsibility of measurement along various business lines and consequently defining the strategy for the next growth opportunities, product offerings, markets to pursue, competitors to look at etc. This is seen in organizations like Chartis, AllState and Fidelity

Early CDO appointments

  • Cathryne Clay Doss of Capital One was appointed chief data officer in 2002.[2]
  • Usama Fayyad, Chief Data Officer and Senior Vice President of Yahoo! in 2005.[3][4]

Notable example CDOs

  • John Bottega was CDO for CitiGroup's Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) unit, and later for the New York Federal Reserve.[5]
  • Philip Bourne is associate director for data science at the National Institutes of Health [6]
  • Usama Fayyad was the first CDO for Yahoo! in 2004-2009 and also the CDO of Barclays in London from 2013-2016. He showed how the role can generate value by creating a $500 million new revenue source based on behavioral Targeting of Ads for Yahoo! in 2008.[7]
  • Maria Villar was appointed CDO at Fannie Mae and Justin Magruder was appointed CDO at Freddie Mac in 2007, in the months leading up to the 2008 Credit Crisis to assist the GSE's in implementing new financial control frameworks for risk management. Beth Hiatt succeeded Maria and Diane Schmidt succeeded Justin in 2009.[8]
  • Henri Verdier was appointed in September 2014 Administrateur Général des Données (CDO) of the French Administration, probably the first CDO of a Country.[9]
  • Zachary Townsend was appointed the inaugural CDO of California by Jerry Brown in July 2016.[10] The role has wide authority around transparency, efficiency and accountability in state operations.[11]

Following the 2008 credit crisis, many major banks and insurance companies created the CDO role to ensure data quality and transparency for regulatory and risk management as well as analytic reporting.


  2. Gohring, Nancy. "Return of the Chief Data Officer".
  3. Piatetsky-Shapiro, Gregory (24 October 2005). "Interview with Usama Fayyad". KDnuggets Newsletter (no. 20). KDnuggets. KDnuggets. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  4. Grey, Dan; Dataconomy, News Publication (14 October 2015). "The Power of Data to Know the World, to Improve the World, and to Change the World". Dataconomy (web). Dataconomy Media GmbH. Dataconomy. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  6. "NIH Names Dr. Philip E. Bourne First Associate Director for Data Science". 2015-08-10. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2016-07-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ANDSI - The association of French CIOs
  10. "Inaugural Chief Data Officer Appointed in California".
  11. "California seeks chief data officer - GovFresh". 13 April 2016.
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