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CIO Upfront: The blurring line between technology and data - and how it impacts the C-suite

CIO Upfront: The blurring line between technology and data - and how it impacts the C-suite

With the rise of the chief digital officer role, is the CIO job title in need of a revamp? Darryl Wolfaardt of Mettle Consulting writes about the ongoing shift in the executive suite.


A fundamental, crucial shift is currently underway in our sector, where data is increasing in importance for business strategies, and the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) is emerging. But how is this role separated from the CIO, and what does the team under the CDO need to look like?

The CDO role comes in varying forms, as different organisations obviously have different requirements. However, regardless of what the exact responsibilities of a CDO are, it is an absolute must that the role is fulltime and is not shared in conjunction with any other position, it needs to stand on its own. By giving the role the right attention, the desired outcomes of smart, effective decision-making and added value, will be derived.

The key to the separation of the CIO and CDO role is the difference between data and technology. It must be noted that although systems and technology support the generation of data, data is not technology – it is an asset. The history behind data and tech falling under one realm of responsibility, is that data was always generated by technology, which only the people that understood that technology could access, so they have been viewed as one entity despite being very different.

It must be noted that although systems and technology support the generation of data, data is not technology – it is an asset.

Darryl Wolfaardt, Mettle Consulting


Most organisations that don’t have a CDO are relying on the CIO to ensure that the data is managed effectively and areas of value are identified, i.e. both data and technology are still being lumped under one umbrella. As a CIO, your plate is full enough. You are likely already at maximum capacity focusing on systems and technology and managing the staff who take care of it, so how are you meant to also give data due diligence?

To ensure this crucial split at C-suite level, there should not only be a shift in responsibility, but a change in job titles. The use of the term “information” does not clarify a separation between technology and data, which is why I believe the job title of Chief Information Officer is gradually being reconstructed into two distinct titles; the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Chief Data Officer (CDO), which creates a clear divide. A CDO who is in charge of data, and a CTO who is in charge of technology. Obviously these roles need to work very closely together, but the realms of responsibility are clearly separated and understood when termed like this. Additionally, an incumbent CIO needs to be open to change; working hand-in-hand with the person who does step in to the companion role.

Under every C-suite position there has to be a strong team, and to ensure that the shift to a stronger data focus is reflected downwards from the CDO, the management positions underneath this role also need to be examined, to ensure there is responsibility for every discipline.

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So what should the team under a CDO look like? What job roles are required to ensure that data is given the focus it requires? The job titles can vary, but the realms of responsibility should be split along the lines of the following:

  • Monitoring and managing of data quality – ensuring data is clean and accurate
  • Data governance – the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity and security of data
  • Master data management – enabling the organisation to link all of its data to one master repository, or ‘golden record’
  • Metadata management – the ‘tribal’ knowledge within an organisation
  • Data modelling and business intelligence - what are the questions the organisation is trying to answer?
  • Data integration – combining, merging and enabling data to be moved and integrated
  • Data warehousing – the storing of data, with a focus on ‘all the data, all the time’

You may be asking what all this means for you as a CIO right now. It means paving the way for change – educating the rest of the C-suite about the importance of data as an asset, and ensuring it is leveraged in the right way. It is about explaining your priorities in terms of looking after the crucially important technology and systems within the organisation, and then highlighting the growing emergence of the CDO role in similar organisations.

Although the separation of data and technology may seem like such a simple concept, it is one that has still not been implemented in many organisations, as it requires such a significant restructure and firm, effective change management practices in order to carry it out effectively. But, when data and technology are given the space to stand alone, great things really can happen!


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Darryl Wolfaardt
Darryl Wolfaardt


Darryl Wolfaardt is the managing director of Mettle Consulting.


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