90% of enterprises will hire CDOs by 2019, says Gartner

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Chief data officers (CDOs) will exist in 90 per cent of enterprises by the end of 2019, Gartner has predicted.

The research firm said the desire to use information in smarter ways will fuel this "sharp rise" in CDOs, who will supervise data use and inform business strategies based on it.

"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 vice president 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."

Yahoo, CitiGroup and Barclays all have CDOs now, said Gartner, while government departments have also been quick to capitalise on this new executive position, with the former chief of the Government Digital Service (GDS), Mike Bracken, adding the CDO role to his responsibilities last March before he left the organisaiton, and the NHS appointed Geraint Lewis as its CDO in 2014.

However, Gartner also predicted that only half of CDOs will be successful by the end of 2019, because of the structural challenges they will face, among other obstacles.

Most CDOs will learn on the job because of the new nature of the role, and will face the difficult task of creating an information strategy with relevant metrics that tie the activities of their team to measurable business outcomes.

Faria said: "With the explosion of datasets everywhere, an important task is determining which information can add business value, drive efficiency or improve risk management.

"The 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."

To make the role work, Gartner has outlined six recommendations for new CDOs, starting with forming an enterprise information management strategy, then building trust with the CIO, educating senior leaders about the importance of data, establishing key indicators to measure and tying these to business metrics, and lastly adopting formal information asset measures.

Gartner will run a more in-depth CDO programme at the Gartner Enterprise Information & Master Data Management Summit 2016, which takes place between 2-3 March in London.