Skills Flickr copyright Vinod Kumar
Skills Flickr copyright Vinod Kumar

Organisations are increasingly employing the role of a Chief Data Officer in supporting the CIO.

A challenge for executives has seen the newly created role leaving many CDOs unclear on the skills and requirements they need for the role in helping to transform the organisation.

Executives and CIOs need to clearly define their responsibilities of how a CDO’s role will benefit the business strategy. In some organisations, a CDO will oversee how data is managed, gathered and protected.

CIO UK looks at the skills a CIO wants from their Chief Data Officer in how they can support the digital leader in adding value to the business. See also: (Chief Data Officer salary and job description)

Analytically minded

A CDO’s role is versatile, primarily focusing on managing the data information of the enterprise. The Chief Data Officer role reports to the CIO providing an insight into the business of how the data can improve the business.

CDOs should create a data and analytics strategy in gathering information from across the business on the investments the company has made. A data strategy would see leadership skills emerge from a CDO in building relationships with other departments and working out how to monetize data in the organisation. 


According to Spiceworks, communication remains a focus for CIOs with 29% of digital leaders planning to improve this skill in 2017.

CIOs and CDOs should be open and communicate freely to help establish a rapport with each other.

Workshops, team lunches and scheduling one-to-one meetings are great ways to network effectively. This can help CIOs gain further knowledge of different roles while also building a rapport with colleagues.

Sainsbury’s Chief Data Officer Andrew Day agrees there needs to be a collaborative approach between the two executive roles for a greater understanding of the business.

Read next: Sainsbury's Chief Data Officer Andrew Day using data from 'farm to fork'.

“At Sainsbury’s, it’s a new role so we’re working through how we work together,” he said. “But one of the things that are absolutely clear from the time I’ve been in the business is that the business is massively collaborative.

“I think most importantly, the role of a CIO and the role of a CDO are very different, but they come together in the technology space in that a CIO is clearly all about technology and a CDO needs to understand technology as an enabler for doing what we do for from an analytics perspective.”

Security aware

A concern for CDOs today and many organisations is security. The role of a CDO includes the responsibilities of how data is accessed and handled in protecting the business.

In some organisations, CDOs are working alongside the Chief Information Security Officer in developing an analytics strategy for the organisation. CDOs should communicate to the CIO and CISO the security goals of how they can align the data information with the business strategy.

A CDO’s responsibility will include the lead role in managing and protecting the privacy of the businesses information and security details.

Over half of businesses have staff training and an awareness programme in place with a CDO communicating the cyber threats to the whole organisation, according to The Global State of Information Security Survey 2016.

A security programme will ensure the company’s privacy is safeguarded, adding credibility to a CDO’s role in the organisation.


The CIO wants their Chief Data Officer to be a strategic leader in driving data for the organisation.

CDOs are being given the opportunity to help increase revenues acting as strategic business partners rather than just data leaders. 

According to Gartner, 90% of organisations will have a CDO by 2019. Bank of England’s Chief Data Officer Harry Choneiri sees the CDO role more than being accountable for than data management.

"The CDO needs to be technically aware to avoid relying on others to understand the architecture that is being delivered to support your requirement. This understanding helps the CDO have more strategic conversations."

Creating a strategic vision for the organisations can be a complex yet creative process for a CDO. The role can go from gatekeepers of data to strategic-thinking leaders and help transform the business.


According to Gartner’s research of 180 Chief Data Officers, they found only 16% of CDOs report directly to the CIO.

CIO 100 organisations including Greenwich Borough Council, British Council and Financial Times are currently implementing leadership programmes to help increase work productivity and retain staff members.

A CDO’s leadership skills and digital processes can enable the organisation to see the potential of a more data-focused strategy. CDOs should influence CIOs and their peers of what projects and new technologies they are looking to develop on in order to create an efficient data platform for users.

CIO 100 organisations including Bank of England and Ministry of Defence Chief Data Officers are currently influencing their organisations and seeing the impact of data.

An understanding of the business

Data is entwined across different departments and across the whole organisation. A priority for a CIO is collaborating effectively with the CDO on how the data strategy can develop the business.

The building of relationships between a CIO and a CDO will give a greater insight into each of the digital team’s roles; while also creating a greater understanding of the business.

A CDO should outline the company’s objectives and priorities in helping to motivate fellow colleagues of how the organisation can reach their goals.

Communication skills and reporting to executives have been cited by a number of CIOs, and Jore Gill at The Economist see his CIO role in benefitting the organisation, its customers and the products from engaging with his digital team.

“I have the data team reporting to me, including the Chief Data Officer", he said. "This has enabled the team to use data analytics to make marketing, product and content decisions."

The Economist has seen the engagement with the data team giving a great insight of how they can provide a better customer experience.  

“Our board will report ion the future in data metrics, which we have combined our first-party data with third-party data to provide customers with what they want based on their interests.”

A CDO can transfer these skill sets in gaining credibility in their role while also creating a wider business value. The data role must collaborate with the CIO in implementing policies which can lighten the CIO's workload; in ensuring data in the organisation is running smoothly.