The drive to become a digital business has lead to the rise of a new leadership role — the chief data officer.

At the end of 2015, Gartner estimated that 25 per cent of large global organisations had already hired a chief data officer (CDO). By 2019, Gartner expects that number to reach 90 per cent.

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“This rapid shift is the tip of the iceberg,” said Ted Friedman, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, and summit chair for the Gartner Data & Analytics Summits.

“It represents a much deeper change occurring throughout most organisations. Practitioners of distinctive data and analytics disciplines will need to broaden their understanding, and work more closely with others to realise the benefits of using data and analytics to capture transformative business opportunities and mitigate risks.”

Friedman said organisations are increasingly creating a single data and analytics team reporting to a new leadership role.

“As silos are broken down, and professionals in this area work in cross-functional teams more than ever, it was clear that coverage of both data and analytics in one place was needed,” he said.

The journey toward digital business is, at its core, a drive to better collect, manage and exploit data assets and apply analytics for richer insights. By 2018, Gartner predicts that over half of large organisations will compete using advanced analytics and proprietary algorithms, disrupting entire industries. This, in turn, is being driven by the proliferation of devices, connected ‘things,’ connectivity and computing power — all of which creates more opportunities to collect data, analyse it, and potentially monetise it.”

The challenge for organisations is to determine meaning and value from the masses of data at hand, in the face of internal constraints such as budgets, governance mandates, skills and culture, and external forces like competition, market dynamics and regulatory and social pressures.

“The modern data and analytics leader has an unprecedented chance to transform the organisation on its journey into the world of digital business, and the course of action is clear: Craft a strategy to overcome the data science skills gap, modernise data infrastructure and analytic platforms, govern and take advantage of diverse information sources, and spearhead data and analytic projects that have high-value payback,” Friedman said.

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