The rise of the data executive

The shift to data-driven, digital business is compelling organizations to create and reinvent new roles, positions and duties that sharpen focus on data and analytics.

Digital business transformation requires a new breed of “data executives.” They include the chief data officer (CDO) and chief analytics officer (CAO), IT leader roles focused on data and analytics (e.g., business intelligence and master data management leaders) and other business roles. Their objective is to exploit data analytics to drive digital revenue and supporting operational improvements for IT, marketing, risk management, compliance, production and finance.

As will be discussed at the upcoming Gartner CIO & IT Executive Summit in Toronto, the rapid rise in the number of new executives demonstrates how companies are adapting to the market and technology trends in their shift to digital business.

The trend for new executive roles shows the strategic use of data and analytics to achieve mission critical priorities, that include digital revenue, efficient and effective business process outcomes and more innovative data-driven insights and decisions.

This evolution of data and analytics leadership in all manner of organizations – commercial, non-profit or government sector – underlines their commitment to exploiting powerful trends, such as algorithmic business and the Internet of Things (IoT).

These and many other developments and business opportunities arising from the analysis of new data sources and technologies highlights the need for new executive roles that bridge the gap between “business” and “IT,” and harness the data to achieve digital business objectives.

The new reality for data and analytics leaders is the evolution of terminology, such as machine learning, and methodologies such as predictive modeling, to reflect these changing roles.

Until recently, organizations have thought of ‘data’ as a lower order of ‘information’.

However boards of directors, CEOs and senior executive have thankfully started to change such thinking. Increasingly IT and business leaders now talk of ‘data’ and ‘data management’, rather than ‘information’ and ‘information management’ while referring to ‘analytics’, rather than ‘business intelligence’.

These gradual changes in terminology, roles and titles, along with the emergence of bimodal IT capabilities and other developments, provide an insight into the breadth and depth of organizational change that will be associated with the transformation to data-driven digital business.

New and advanced analytics technologies are on the rise, such as predictive and prescriptive analytics, decision management software, smart machines, event stream processing applications and operational intelligence platforms. As a result, the demand for analytics has moved outside specialty IT-based communities and is now being headed up largely by individual business units.

It’s time for organizations to recognize the need for a new cadre of leaders, data scientists, architects and engineers, together with new and organizational designs and modernized applications/infrastructure. The breadth and depth of the challenge calls for leaders who can operate as master change agents. They will need to drive the creation of a cohesive set of business-relevant capabilities across all channels, sources and uses of information in order to maximize information investments and leverage the new economics of information.

Joseph Bugajski manages global Data and Analytics research at Gartner, Inc. The research focuses on data strategy, management and infrastructure; and business analytics, data discovery, BI and advanced analytics. His personal research interests span CDO, data and analytics strategy, and organizational issues.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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