As we see organizations introducing the chief data officer’s role, the responsibilities of this role are quickly evolving, or getting defined and redefined. The role of CDO is NOT about improving the existing business using data. This is already being done by the Enterprise Information Management (EIM) teams and falls within the purview of the CTO (chief technology officers).

The role of CDO is to figure out how to disrupt existing businesses using data, …. business which may or may not be related to the parent organization’s line of business. The role of the CDO is to create new highly profitable business units thereby diversifying the organization’s business into new areas. This requires a startup mindset with strong proficiency in data mining and building business models. The challenge is to find new business models by possibly combining traditional databases with ‘new’ data, obtained through modern channels.

The CDO needs to focus on building data driven business models, and leave tasks like collecting, managing and curating data to existing information management teams. The CDO, in a way, is business to the traditional enterprise data management teams within the organization. He manages the P&L of the new business units (that he is building) and deals with the regulatory and ethical issues associated with the new businesses. He also needs to be vigilant of the data ownership issues and related regulations.

Diversifying into new upcoming data driven businesses is an extremely important need of today’s organizations, and if they dont diversify, they are at risk of extinction. The CDOs office is a key engine of change within the organization, incubating internal data driven startups, and ensuring that organizations stays on top of the changing business scenario.

The new trend is about leveraging data to build new businesses, as against building business and using data to improve it. The industry lines are blurring, and companies that have the right data (and know how to use it) are encroaching untapped business opportunities across industries. The agent of this new trend is the chief data officer.