Guest Column | July 23, 2018

Every Board Needs A Chief Data Officer – Here's Why

A conversation with Dave Richards, EY

Retail Executive

The role of the Chief Data Officer isn’t new but it needs a refresh in our new, digital-first transformative age. Today, Chief Data Officer should play a role on the operating committee and board level by making sure businesses meet growing data privacy and global regulatory regulations, driving the transition to monetizing data, and using emerging technology to protect the business and the network of consumers/partners. Dave Richards, Principal, Advisory Consumer Products & Retail at EY, recently took time to discuss this, Future Consumer Now, and more with Retail Operations Insights.

Q: What does a CDO do and what type of person should be considered to fill this role?

Richards: In retail, the roles of the CIO and CMO have historically been very well defined. With the introduction of the CTO role (traditionally tasked to focus on technology architecture), the roles within the C-suite started to blur. The CDO role started to emerge at physical retailers who were trying to expand and shift their business into the digital space (dotcom, mobile, voice, social). However, as more retailers have embraced the omni-channel approach and made varying progress integrating their ‘digital’ business with their ‘traditional’ business, the role of CDO has expanded to include elements of both the former digital and physical retail business. As a result, almost every retailer defines the role of the CDO, CIO, CTO, and CMO differently. 

Q: With whom does the CDO collaborate within the organization and why?

Richards: As every retailer defines the role of the CDO differently, the CDO collaborates with a variety of leaders depending on the company. Some retailers have a clear linkage and connection between the CDO and the CIO/CTO, where others place greater emphasis on linkage between the CDO and CMO. The model that doesn’t typically work is where the CDO is an ‘island’, with a very small team and no responsibilities other than to identify new/emerging digital technologies, but with no operational responsibility to implement them.

Q: In what ways do new compliance regulations impact the CDO’s role?

Richards: The biggest compliance regulation that is impacting the marketplace — specifically any retailer with European business, or customers located in Europe, is GDPR. With the availability of new technologies and data regarding their customers, retailers have the opportunity to increase the personalization of their customers’ journeys. With greater personalization comes the need for increased data security and privacy. It is sometimes the role of the CDO to ensure that data is being used responsibly. We expect that there will likely be corresponding U.S. regulations following GDPR.

Q: How does the CDO use new, emerging technologies to protect the business?

Richards: The CDO needs to recognize all of the points of interface that a business has with a customer. With the introduction of emerging technology such as voice enabled commerce, the CDO needs to work within the company to secure transactions and data beyond the traditional point of sales.

Q: What kind of leadership support is needed to support a CDO?

Richards: The existence of the CDO requires the top-down sponsorship from the CEO. As each company defines the role differently — some CDOs have specific business accountability while others are a team of one — the CDO also requires buy-in across the C-suite to ensure he/she can do their job.

Q: How are automation and cloud platforms affecting the industry, particularly in the use of data?

Richards: While different technologies, both automation and cloud platforms have a large impact on the availability and use of data and have enabled ever greater customer personalization. As cloud platforms enable the collection, storage and usage of more data, the CDO has an increased ability to drive personalized interactions for customers. Automation has also accelerated this process by intelligently automating many aspects of the customer interaction that previously required human intervention. Both technologies, along with advanced analytics capabilities, have made significant impacts on customer personalization.