Latest News

Chief Data Officers leading the digital revolution

Bringing data-driven success to businesses through the CDO role

According to PwC research, two thirds of companies are talking more about data now than they did five years ago. Using data to inform business decisions has led to a new role — the chief data officer, who oversees the many benefits and challenges that come with harnessing data from a huge collection. Here John Salt, co-founder of leading data jobs platform, OnlyDataJobs, shares the three skills needed to succeed in the chief data officer role, and explores the attributes that future candidates will have.


The rise of the chief data officer role demonstrates the increasing need to champion the value of data assets, in order to create a data-first, digital business.

However, only 21 per cent of companies currently have a chief data officer (CDO) and, according to research undertaken by Gartner, more than 80 per cent assumed the role in the last two years.

Take the FTSE100 companies, for example, where only 37 per cent have a CDO – higher than the 21 per cent shown across all organisations in the UK, but still not enough. To be able to continue thriving, this role needs to be created and filled to implement data-driven change in strategy, working practices and the offering of the business.

The role of the CDO is multifaceted, and liable to change in line with key trends happening now and in the future. The critical skill needed is within data – you can’t drive change at an organisational level without a background and significant experience in data science. But this also goes beyond; data interpretation is one of the core roles of the CDO, and being able to read these statistics to create actionable insights is one of the biggest skills the chief data officer needs.

All of this must be done in line with regulations, one of the biggest in the last years being the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), brought in to enhance an individual’s control and rights over their personal data. While this is primarily EU-based, the UK still retains the law in an identical form.

The Information Commissions Office (ICO) recommends the creation of a data protection officer (CPO), who would fall inside the remit of the CDO, but as of yet, only 13 per cent of the FTSE 100 list have this role filled – meaning that most CDOs have to take on this aspect themselves as part of their day-to-day operations.

Another key attribute that CDOs need is the understanding of how all this information flows, and how it can be utilised throughout the organisation. This usually calls for different technologies to be used to democratise and operationalise data, as well as to improve security.

This also means ensuring that those who need the data – including both executive teams and front-line staff – have adequate access, as well as being adequately trained so that they can use the data to gain business insights. This empowers the workforce to use data to justify their gut instinct – by having the power to freely explore the data, the organisation can gain an advantage over their competition.

While the above skills are integral to the role, being the chief change agent within the company for creating a data-driven environment also demands soft skills: consulting experience, the power of persuasion, first-class communication skills and the foresight to see how change affects all. These points are imperative, as Gartner notes that many CDOs have faced resistance in creating a data-driven culture – usually due to data showing that the old and known way, might not be the best way.

It’s clear that data and analytics are only going to become more influential throughout organisations in the years to come, so the role of the CDO is also going to become more pivotal throughout the change to data-driven processes. In most companies, there is significant potential for improving strategy and vision with data, and with the right technical and communication skills, CDOs will be able to redefine their strategy and analytics to bring impactful success throughout the business.

If you’re looking for a role in data and analytics, and would like to find out more about chief data officer roles that are currently available, head over to