How can Chief Data Officers and Chief Digital Officers work better together?

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The synergy between data and digital could be absolutely tremendous. However, the two are often pitted against each other, despite looking to achieve similar goals.

The tensions begin in the C-suite. Here, the relationship between Chief Data Officers and Chief Digital Officers is growing particularly strained. This unspoken tenseness and butting of heads is for more than who has more ownership of the CDO acryonym. Instead, it simply comes down to a difference in priorities. For better understanding, it helps to recap what it means to be data-driven, versus what it means to be digitally driven.

Data is nothing new, but in recent years, its value has skyrocketed as organisations learn how useful it can be. In turn, businesses are harvesting as much as they can to gain better insights into their processes, customer behaviour, and much more. Now, it's an integral cog in the enterprise machine, and a data-rich and data-driven business is synonymous with a successful one.

Similarly, digital approaches to just about anything have favoured traditional counterparts for decades. Today's increasingly competitive landscape has led to talk and action surrounding 'digital transformation' – a journey that companies across every industry are embarking on. Motivating this is the ambition to help employees work smarter, improve productivity, and embrace the digital options available to businesses out there today.

Thus, digital and data-driven approaches are at the forefront of modern business initiatives. Both are ultimately in place to positively impact a company's bottom line, derive value from technology, and overall success. However, the conflict arises from the different journeys to getting there.

A difference of opinion

While dealing with data assets is part of a Chief Digital Officer's role, dealing with digital assets is not part of the Chief Data Officer's, which you can imagine could be a root cause for some tension from a stepping-on-toes perspective. Elsewhere, the CDOs might also overlap whenever data management is concerned with digital transformation (perhaps when observing operational processes). Otherwise, the two don't actually coincide that much in reaching their mutual goals, as they both take different paths.

For the Chief Digital Officer, it's all about innovation, particularly where the customer is concerned. They want to provide seamless, enjoyable customer experiences and deliver quickly on new ideas. However, the Chief Data Officer must always consider governance and compliance, meaning spontaneity is not an option.

Now you can start to see where the two don't align. From a digital perspective, bringing customers new digitally innovative products quickly can do wonders for the success of a brand. On the flip side, any data mishaps can seriously damage a brand's reputation, as well as compromise customer data safety.

It's almost a battle of enthusiasm versus reason. However, a compromise has to be made, as both are perfectly valid standpoints.

What this necessitates is a restructure of how the roles interact. It's not so much an issue of who should report to who. Rather, digital and data teams should work together in the delivery of any innovative product from the very beginning. This means that the Chief Data Officer in particular must communicate all new ideas with the Chief Data Officer from the get-go. The Chief Data Officer must then outline the appropriate timeline to ensure quicker time to market while remaining compliant. Between them both, they can achieve a data-driven digital transformation. In other words, it doesn't have to be one or the other.

Next, why not listen to Stephan Fabel at Canonical share his expertise on how cloud drives digital transformation?