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Whether you prescribe to the cliche that 'data is the new oil', or simply want to get your shop in order, data is of growing importance to every business, big or small.

All organisations handle data, from employee to customer, and there are guidelines and regulations - such as the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - that have to be followed.

Although the Chief Data Officer (CDO) is a relatively new role, the position is expected to increasingly be present across UK organisations looking to create business efficiencies and improve risk management processes. Analyst house Gartner even predicted that nine in 10 organisations would have a CDO by the end of 2019.

The responsibilities of a CDO will typically range across several areas, including the storing and processing of data, to defining an analytics strategy. Most CDO's will also be expected to break down data siloes and effectively centralise data and analytics within an organisation.

What is a Chief Data Officer?

A chief data officer is a senior executive or corporate officer responsible for enterprise-wide data governance and determining what types of information can be used as an asset through data processing, analysis and mining.

Read next: Chief Data Officer salary and job description

The CDO is positioned as part of the executive management team and often handles data management and exploitation through a number of systems and technologies such as business intelligence (BI), and increasingly, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques. It is their role to ensure the right technology and skills are in place for the businesses to effectively turn its data into an asset.

Roles and responsibilities of a CDO

A CDO is primarily responsible for overseeing the data and analytics department, which is often separated from the IT department. They must define and implement an overall data strategy and identify new business opportunities.

“The CDO role must sit within the business and away from IT. The CDO role is more around data governance, monitoring, data processes, data lifecycle and data sourcing rather than IT and this reflects how it should be structured,” Vincent Benita, CDO at BNP Paribas told CIO UK.

The role will also include accountability and responsibility for information protection and privacy, as well as data quality and lifecycle management. The core areas that a CDO is expected to prioritise includes data management, data usage for operational improvements and increase in revenue.

However, a CDO should also be aware of continuous changing demands and be able to set capabilities that are able to sense and respond to such demands.

What are the required skills?

A CDO will need to be able to combine several skills across data, IT and business knowledge to be successful.

Data science knowledge is increasingly important, as well as an understanding of analytics and statistics. The CDO will need to understand how to interpret data and how to communicate those insights in a business context, whilst making information easily accessible to all.

As expected, knowledge of data security is critical, especially for UK organisations based on the need to comply with GDPR and data protection. The effectiveness and ability to prioritise meeting these requirements will be handled by the CDO.

"A successful CDO certainly has to have data competency and technology competency to be credible, and they also have to have the blend of the strategic and the tactical,” Peter Jackson, CDO at Southern Water told CIO UK.

“They have to be able to blend those two approaches together. It's like what Collibra call the offensive-defensive approach - being able to blend two paces at once to deliver business value, but with sound data governance and management.”

Overall, a CDO is required to have clear data, IT and business skills that all work together equally.

Why the CDO role is important?

Handling data effectively acts as a critical point in differentiating between a successful and unsuccessful business. Organisations that are able to manage personal data and business information in a secure and effective way are often most likely to witness high levels of success.

Already, 57 percent of organisations have a CDO and 24 percent are considering creating the position according to figures from MicroStrategy’s 2018 Global State of Enterprise Analytics Report.

The role is particularly important in working as a point of contact across different areas, and the insight towards revenue and finance will provide a significant boost in the organisation.