CDOs and CIOs: Just Exactly Who Is Lurking in the Shadows?


Beware of Cloud VendorsA recent article in IT Business Edge has done an interesting pivot on the notion of “shadow IT” (technology deployed within the enterprise, but


Beware of Cloud VendorsA recent article in IT Business Edge has done an interesting pivot on the notion of “shadow IT” (technology deployed within the enterprise, but outside the control of a central IT organization.) Citing a Gartner Group claim that within several years marketing groups within the enterprise will be spending more on technology than central IT, the article suggests that central IT itself may become the shadow group, as real ownership and control of technology is assumed by different parts of the enterprise that are becoming more and more IT-intensive in their operation (e.g. marketing.)

Another area where IT runs the risk of becoming marginalized is in the area of data management. One of the more interesting topics of the day is the notion of the need for a Chief Data Officer who is positioned as a C-level position within the enterprise. Gartner predicts that 50% of regulated industries will have such a role as of 2017.

There are more than a few pundits who believe that, as a C-level title, the CDO should report directly to the CEO. If you’re a champion of the importance of data (in Trillium’s case, more specifically data quality and governance) it might seem that organizations will benefit from having a CDO with a seat at the decision-making table of the enterprise. Some will argue that it signals the importance of data to the enterprise. But I’d also suggest careful consideration of whether it really is the best way to go.

Let’s concede that data is crucial to operation in the modern digital age. There’s no argument there. But is there not an existing C-level role that could – and arguably should – own data responsibilities: the CIO? In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that there is something incongruous about creating a new role for a data management czar and suggesting that it is independent of, and a peer of, a comparable senior IT role.

Data Hierarchical ModelWhy? Let’s start off by remembering the basics. IT means “information technology” and CIO refers to the chief information officer. Then consider the classic data/information/knowledge/wisdom hierarchical model that originated twenty-five years ago in support of the concepts of systems thinking and knowledge management. This generally-accepted model (at least at the lower levels) characterizes data as raw building blocks, while information represents data that is organized in a way that provides meaning and context. So information is a higher level form of data. If so, shouldn’t data be managed by the chief “information” officer to better ensure that the data delivers what’s needed?

For some, the distinction between data and information may seem more semantic quibbling than substantive. But a schism between control of data and information technology within the enterprise may also be an indication of the possible future marginalization of IT (and the role of the CIO.) When a technology area like data management, as well as data quality and governance, becomes so important that its advocates see the need to take responsibility away from a logical incumbent like the CIO, then perhaps it’s time for the incumbent to wake up from its slumber.

Now, I’m not suggesting that CIOs are asleep. But research suggests that they are far too busy with the operational aspects of managing technology stacks, such that they don’t have the time to pursue tasks that are truly strategic to the enterprise. And unless they respond pro-actively to the challenge, they will be complicit in the loss of their opportunity to take on a more strategic role. As was noted in a previous blog, as much as 75% of the typical enterprise IT budget (let’s consider that to include financial budget, as well as time and attention, since there is a strong correlation) is focused on technology areas that do not create differentiating business value. It involves infrastructure, telecommunications and related services. Though it’s all important stuff, it means that IT is not really focused in those areas with which establish competitive differentiation. So although that might not represent slumber, if an enterprise is technology-driven, it’s a serious problem.

In my next blog posting, we will explore a potential answer to the challenge.

by Chris Martins, Product Marketing Manager, Trillium Software