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PHOTO: Jake Hills

The number of positions with the title chief data officer (CDO) has more than quadrupled over the past four years as enterprises continue to focus on using data to create value. CDOs are tasked with overseeing everything about an organization’s data: strategy, maintenance, policy and stewardship. Furthermore, CDOs ensure that data is collected and analyzed in a manner that creates value for their companies.

How the CDO Came to Be

In the 1960s, the top IT employees were data processing managers, and they were responsible for the implementation of new systems, maintenance and the development of technical standards and procedures. As data and technology grew in importance, the role evolved and IT leaders gained executive status with the title of chief information officer (CIO).

In 2002, Capital One appointed Cathryne Clay Doss as one of the first CDOs. She was tasked with overseeing market analysis and the collaboration of IT and supply chain management. The role of CDO continued to grow and emerged in other industries, but the focus remained on joining the work of IT and data analysis.

Wringing Value From Corporate Data

The CDO creates value from corporate data by directing and overseeing all of the company’s big data initiatives. This includes overseeing teams focused on analysis, data strategy, data governance and data architecture. While one team analyzes data to predict future market trends, another ensures that data is stored reliably and securely. These days, companies have access to vast amounts of data, and managing that data takes experts in everything from statistics and data security to basic computer maintenance.

In most organizations, the CDO reports to the CEO or another top-level executive. An essential component of the CDO’s role is to keep all executives informed on the company’s data strategy, policies and procedures. Using data to increase operational efficiency or predict trends requires the CDO to collaborate with colleagues from all areas of the company.

Related Article: More Digital Business = More Chief Digital Officers

The Future of Big Data

Every day, we create over 250 million terabytes of data. Business use that data to improve operations, track consumer demographics, monitor sales and expenditures, and much more. More than 80 percent of large companies find that big data initiatives deliver business benefits. Whether by helping a company better understand its buyers, predicting future trends or letting executives know when to shift resources to avoid a problem, data-driven decision-making is essential to business.

As the position of chief data officer spreads into new industries, from finance and technology to sports and medicine, the amount of data businesses collect will continue to grow. Government agencies have even started hiring CDOs; in 2011, the city of Chicago became the first major municipality to appoint a CDO.

Companies lose an average of $9.7 million each year because of poor results from data analysis. Qualified CDOs could help mitigate those losses. Moreover, organizations that employ CDOs collect more data than those that don’t, and they are better able to analyze and use that data to maximum effect.

Big data is only going to get bigger, and CDOs are here to manage it. You can learn more in this infographic:

Semarchy CDO Infographic