Are CIOs Getting Replaced By CDOs?

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Pundit Nicholas Carr stated in 2003 that the role of the CIO was doomed. Ten years later and with $3.7 trillion in global IT spending, it may look like he was spectacularly wrong. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and Carr looks a bit more prescient.

Today, the traditional role of the CIO is shrinking. Company networks are becoming more diverse and less controlled. BYOD means that employees bring and largely support their own devices while cloud systems replace corporate applications, servers, and infrastructure. At the same time, tech budgets are being diversified into other areas of the company, leaving some CIOs with shrinking empires.

At the same time, two types of CDOs have emerged: the chief data officer and the chief digital officer.

The last type is gaining prevalence particularly quickly; the position is usually assumed by a person who comes from outside the IT field. The two positions, though, are clearly tied to technology and to how it can be used in the enterprise. However, CDOs don’t worry about technologies that need CIOs to work. They operate on a bigger picture level in the modern data-driven business environment.

The CDO position is gaining more and more traction. MIT hosted the most recent industry conference and even the Federal Reserve has a CDO. Given that many CIOs lack the business focus to truly harness big data products or to even drive a data based culture, they’re being left behind. 

However, while the CDO is a threat to many CIOs, this doesn’t mean that the CIO position is dead. The middle initial of CIO — information — cuts to the heart of what the CDO does. CIOs who understand how to use technology to harness and use information are halfway there. The other half comes from being able to articulate how that data can move the organization forward. At the same time, the CIO is particularly well positioned to manage the transition process between a company’s legacy systems and the cloud-based data-intensive business world of the future. CIOs that bring all of these skills to the fore will be positioned to survive the rise of the CDO.