Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer, CIO, which leaders for IT - Marketing projects?

Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer, CIO, which leaders for IT - Marketing projects?

New technologies have profoundly changed both the business aspects and the professions themselves and their positioning in companies. New roles have even been created to accompany this transformation, or transition, and incorporate digital into the corporate culture. The position of Chief Digital Officer appeared in 2005 and developed exponentially from 2015. It is closely followed by the Chief Data Officer, born following the awareness of the importance of Big Data issues.

In some companies, only the Chief Digital Officer exists, while in others the Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer coexist. The profiles of the two functions have many points in common and both raise the question of the intersection with the role of the IT department on subjects and projects for which it is historically responsible.

Professions that accelerate digital maturity

In 2016, 27% of companies had a Chief Digital Officer according to the Digital Jobs barometer. Often part of the executive committee, the Chief Digital Officer is above all a cross-functional job that intervenes with all of the company's players: Director, HR, Marketing, Management, Operational, Product, IT... It's up to him or her to carry the digital banner and its strategy, at all levels of the company, to federate and unify the existing silos. 

The Chief Data Officer has an equally transverse position. He or she is the guarantor of the performance of Data subjects for the entire company. According to Gartner, his role and scope of work "encompass the governance, control, protection and efficient use of data".

It is a fast-growing function: in 2016, 18% of companies said they had a Chief Data Officer and 23% will have appointed one in 2017.

Marketing: the CDO's first customer service

Let's take the example of the marketing department. The management of the data that revolves around the marketed products is deeply impacted by the technological advances. Indeed, it is necessary to be able to project these data on the different web and digital channels of the company, in any language, and to update them in real time.

It is essential for marketing departments to equip themselves with the right digital tools to meet this challenge. This is where the CDO (CdigitalO or CdataO as the case may be) comes in, as a transverse relay to set up a PIM tool: Product Information Management, which favors cooperation around marketing data to make the most of it.

Is the CDO an IT-friendly profile?

The CDO - CdigitalO as well as CdataO - has a very complete profile that brings together transversal competences as well as the change he/she instigates:

  • Marketing , of course, because the CDO must be constantly on the lookout for growth opportunities and anticipate future changes,
  • Change management , which involves accompanying, listening to and uniting the sometimes reluctant professions,
  • He does this with impeccable communication and an unparalleled sense of formula, with pedagogy.

These cross-cutting skills are based on a solid technical foundation:

  • A detailed understanding of the latest technological tools is the essential asset for understanding the changes they imply (organisational, business, etc.) and implementing them with calibrated project management (prioritisation, resources, costs, impact management).

Although the CDO is not a technical profile in the operational sense of the term, he or she must be able to anticipate the consequences of a choice between an "on-premise" or "SaaS" solution when implementing a tool such asa PIM solution. He is responsible for the implementation and development of a PIM project, just like a CIO or an e-commerce project manager, due to his experience, position and training.

CDO and CIO, friends or worst enemies?

As the guarantor of the IT architecture and its coherence within a company, the CIO could fear a cannibalisation of his function by the CDO and the technical dimension of his subjects.

But CIOs and CDOs are complementary:

  • The IT Department provides extremely specialized technical expertise and a strategic vision of information systems optimization,
  • The CDO is responsible for the overall roadmap of the transformation and digital transition, its development and deployment.

It is their synergy that will enable the successful completion of digital transformation projects.

Going back to the PIM implementation project, both the CDO and the CIO have major responsibilities in the choice of the solution:

  • The CDO will validate the business contributions, the productivity gains and the advanced phase of the collaboration functionalities of a PIM,
  • The IT department will ensure that it is well integrated into the current architecture (or projected in the longer term) in the company and that it is technically connected to the existing application ecosystem.


Between them, CDOs and CIOs embark on and accompany the company in its strategy, transition and digital transformation. Between the implementation of the change, operated by the appropriate managers and leaders, the management of the data and the monitoring of the technical adequacy, the combination of these three roles, with strongly complementary missions, often allows to put the work in double gear.

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Decades of combined expertise in PIM, DAM, PXM, e-commerce, omnichannel and more...