HomeEmerging and Other technologies

The Chief Data Officer playbook

The CDO role carries broad influence across the organization and can provide a transformative, competitive edge.

Tailoring the CDO role

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) is quickly becoming a pivotal member of the C-suite for organizations across the globe. Indeed, our recent research revealed that organizations with a Chief Data Officer onboard tend to be analytically mature, business-driven enterprises that outperform their competitors.

Managing today’s data-intensive environment

The CDO is increasingly the C-suite’s solution to navigating today’s disruptive, dynamic world. It’s a bespoke role that must be tailored to the needs and culture of the business. At the same time, the CDO is responsible for enabling the organization with a core set of capabilities engineered to sense and respond to changing demands.

The research for our 2015 annual analytics report identified that 422 of 1,225 organizations had adopted the CDO role—statistically 34 percent of the market.¹ And adoption of the CDO function continues in 2016, with an almost weekly cadence of new appointments in the first quarter across industries—from banking and healthcare to travel and beyond.²

Why you should appoint a CDO

The case is compelling: our research revealed that two-thirds of respondents who reported their organization as outperforming its competitors have appointed one. Moreover, organizations with a CDO are:³

Business driven

• 1.9 times more likely to have business-driven data and analytics governance

• 1.7 times more likely to have a big data and analytics strategy

Analytically mature

• 1.8 times more likely to use big data and analytics technologies pervasively across their organization

• 1.5 times more likely to have a Hadoop/Spark platform in place


• 1.3 times more likely to outperform peers

• 1.5 times more likely to use data and analytics to stay ahead of competitors

Given these differentiators, we expect more and more organizations will embrace the CDO role. However, a number of organizations are still refining their vision for the role and, subsequently, fail to define it clearly.

It is not surprising that the rate of turnover among CDOs is unusually high, with few candidates retaining the role for more than 24 months.⁴ One factor underpinning this high turnover is the position’s enormous scope; the CDO’s role is as multifaceted as it is amorphous. Polling a room of 50 CDOs likely will result in 50 very different job descriptions, candidate qualifications and implementation approaches. Organizations are developing and defining the role to fit their unique cultural and organizational objectives.

With this IBM Institute for Business Value report, we aim to assist executives in making strategic decisions about the CDO role by outlining the key questions an organization must answer as it goes about defining the role of this newest member of the C-suite.

The report is based on results from both the 2015 IBM Institute for Business Value Analytics Survey and the 2015 IBM Institute for Business Value Chief Data Officer Survey, as well as extensive informal and formal interviews with CDOs and subject matter experts around the globe.

Through this research, we identified key patterns for consideration both before initially appointing a CDO and after to manage the role as capabilities evolve. We believe executives can leverage these patterns to help them make better decisions about the goals, structures, and priorities of the CDO role.

This CDO Playbook offers quantitative and qualitative data to help organizations ask and answer the right questions when creating—or recreating—the Chief Data Officer role.

¹ 2015 IBM Institute for Business Value Analytics Survey. IBM Institute for Business Value. 2015. https://www.ibm.biz/2015analytics

² IBM Institute for Business Value research and analysis. 2016.

³ 2015 IBM Institute for Business Value Analytics Survey. IBM Institute for Business Value. 2015. https://www.ibm.biz/2015analytics

⁴ IBM Institute for Business Value research and market observation. 2014 to 2016.

Bookmark this report  

Meet the authors

Rebecca Shockley, Executive Consultant CBDS Data Platform & AI, Global Business Services

Bruce Tyler

Connect with author: