Successful CDOs link data and analytics to prioritised and measured business outcomes: Survey

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SME sector

Chief data officers (CDOs) who met revenue-generation objectives and data monetisation goals were more successful in their role than those who primarily focused on enablement projects, such as data governance, according to the Gartner, Inc. seventh annual Chief Data Officer Survey.


“It’s not enough to manage data well or provide analytic tools,” said Debra Logan, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “Data & analytics (D&A) activities must be aimed at prioritised and measurable business outcomes, along with building D&A maturity. Asking the right questions, such as why we are measuring this or what is its relationship to value creation, will promote value delivery to business executives rather than focusing on the enablement of D&A initiatives.”

The seventh annual Gartner Chief Data Officer Survey was conducted worldwide from September through November 2021 among 496 CDOs, chief analytics officers and other high-level data and analytics leaders.

Successful CDOs Engage at Executive Level


While all respondents said they engage with executive management, and the CIO most frequently, high-performing CDOs are significantly more likely to have projects with the CEO that focus on value outcomes. Low performers have more projects with the CFO who is looking at costs and operational efficiency.

The top three objectives of the highest performing CDOs, were improving decision-making capability (63%), meeting revenue generation (49%) and improving customer experience (49%).

“To increase the attention of the CEO and other business executives, the CDO should seek out data projects that focus on revenue generation, data monetization and productisation, improving customer satisfaction and remove obstacles to data sharing,” said Logan. “For non-commercial organisations, promoting data sharing, citizen satisfaction and open data are all good ways to gain organisational investment and success.”


Success Gap Is Widening

The survey respondents cited talent shortages (45%), culture challenges to accept change (40%) and lack of resources and funding (32%) as their most important barriers to the success of their D&A initiatives. The CDOs who actively addressed change management and data literacy within their programs were more successful than their peers.

For example, CDOs who invested much more in resources and talent were 1.8 times more effective and successful with their data literacy programmes than those who invested less.


“Increasing data literacy inside the organisation enables D&A leaders and CDOs to implement a data-driven culture which encourages the use of data in decision-making,” said Logan. Sixty-one per cent of survey respondents said the development of a data-driven culture is one of their top investments.

“Executives have realised that in a data-driven organisation, D&A is no longer an afterthought. D&A is fundamental to digital business transformation and can deliver value if the CDO addresses both data and business priorities.”

Technology Investment Priorities

The survey found that CDOs invest simultaneously in foundational data capabilities including data quality and data governance, and advanced capabilities such as machine learning (ML) and AI and data literacy.

In terms of investment, data management was ranked at the top by 80% of survey respondents and 59% of them ranked ML and AI and advanced analytics as their No. 5 investment priorities in 2021.