What is CDO 4.0?

Recently, Gartner released a classification that defines a new ideal mindset for Chief Data Officers (CDOs)— what Gartner is calling “CDO 4.0.” In Gartner’s words, this new type of CDO should have a focus on their organization’s core product, moving beyond internal projects and programs, and even digital transformation. Here is Gartner’s CDO progression:

  • CDO 1.0: Focused exclusively in data management
  • CDO 2.0: Started to embrace analytics
  • CDO 3.0: Driving digital transformation
  • CDO 4.0: Product-centric

Gartner lays out a clear, easy-to-understand progression here, but how does it compare with the experience of actual CDOs? In the interview below, Alation’s Chief Data Officer, Aaron Kalb, provides his perspective on CDO 4.0, what it means for CDOs, and how it compares to what he sees across Alation’s diverse customer base.

As a CDO, what is your impression of Gartner’s CDO 4.0 classification?

Aaron Kalb, Chief Data Officer, Alation: I think Gartner has done a great job in encapsulating the journey for many Chief Data Officers. One way to think about this progression is to compare it to links in a chain. If I as a CDO am trying to drive analytics, but I don’t have a good handle on data management, then my analytics results are going to be wrong. You can’t just skip 1.0. Each link must be strong enough to support the next, and the longer the chain becomes the greater the risk, and the greater the impact.

For example, customer 360 projects were and are very popular, particularly in the banking and insurance industries. The goal is to ensure that customer service agents know everything they need to know to give each customer a tailored, positive interaction. If the customer service agent had out-of-date or low quality data, the interaction could be negatively affected, but you also have a personable expert on the phone to hopefully smooth things over.

A CDO 4.0 might leverage data to put machine learning into the company’s smartphone app, so the customer doesn’t even need to call customer service. Their needs are met through features trying to meet their needs proactively — say, sending them suggestions for car insurance when their son or daughter turns 16. Such functionality is powerful and impressive—when it works. But, the stakes are also much higher. If there is no expert to smooth things over, issues with the algorithm or the data can cause frustration for the customer, embarrassment for the provider, or worse. CDO 4.0 initiatives are exciting—if and only if, the entire chain is in place.

How does CDO 4.0 compare to what you have seen with Alation customers?

Aaron: One of the reasons why I like Gartner’s sequence is that many of our customers have followed a similar progression and are evolving their focus to be about creating products that drive ROI and value — many of them have had this focus for years. From Munich Re combining expertise from across its global organization to create a new product for insuring wind farms, to Pfizer scaling AI to help identify rare diseases, to Marks and Spencer, using data governance to create new offerings like a mobile pay app that allows customers to skip lines, Alation customers have been creating greater impact with data through a product-centric approach.

Any final thoughts?

Aaron: I applaud Gartner for coming up with clear, concise terminology that mirrors what we have seen with our customers and also within Alation. At Alation, after establishing strong foundations in data management and leveraging data to optimize our business processes and customer experience, our data scientists are now teaming up with our machine learning engineers to bring even more data innovation to our core product. It’s exciting to be on this CDO journey and to be able to draw inspiration from the incredible creativity and accomplishments of our customers.

Gartner CDO Report