The Richmond CDO Forum

Fairmont Windsor Park, Windsor, United Kingdom

16-17 September 2024


Unlocking the true value of Chief Data Officers (CDOs)

The Richmond CDO Forum Blog - 3rd October 2023
In this blog, firstly we explore how CDOs create value in their organisations and therefore become valuable assets themselves by drawing on an article published by the Harvard Business Review’s Digital, Data, and Design Institute entitled “How the Best Chief Data Officers Create Value” by Suraj Srinivasan and Robin Seibert and published on 13 September 2023.

The second part of this blog looks at how CDOs guide growth by summarising the key points of an article posted on WordPress and LinkedIn by Liz Henderson, one of the keynote speakers at our inaugural Richmond CDO forum next September. She regularly writes about data-related topics on LinkedIn and WordPress and in this article, she provides a summary of a recent presentation on the role of a Data Non-Executive Director (NED).

Insights from the Harvard Business Review

In today's data-driven world, data and analytics are vital for organisations' success. The rise of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) reflects the growing importance of data-related functions in businesses. However, a significant challenge persists: many CDOs struggle to quantify and communicate the value of their data and analytics capabilities.

A recent study conducted at Harvard's Digital, Data, and Design Institute sheds light on this issue. The study interviewed 17 CDOs recognised as pioneers in their field to understand how they create, measure and price value in the data and analytics sphere.

Creating value: the four spheres of influence

According to the research conducted by the Institute, CDOs exert influence in four key areas. The first is “data products”, where they develop solutions addressing specific business challenges. The second involves curating data assets and platforms that enable teams to access and use data efficiently. The third area encompasses data architecture and governance, providing the infrastructure for data initiatives. Lastly, CDOs impact the organisation itself by fostering data literacy and developing specialist data talent.

Value proposition for data products

Data products are applications developed by CDOs to improve operations, enhance offerings or enable new services. These projects demonstrate the potential of data initiatives and build trust among stakeholders. Measuring their success involves tracking adoption rates, quantitative improvements, and operational efficiency.

Value proposition for data assets and platforms

Multi-purpose data assets and platforms streamline data access and enable scale. CDOs must prioritise which assets to develop based on business needs. Measuring their impact includes evaluating usage, processing time and qualitative feedback.

Value proposition for data architecture and governance

Efficient data management is crucial. CDOs oversee cost-effective data systems and implement data policies and standards. Measuring their contribution involves assessing improvements in the cost base and progress toward target states.

Value proposition for organisational data-readiness

Creating a data culture within an organisation is a significant challenge. CDOs often collaborate with HR and educational institutions to develop data literacy programmes. Metrics include completion rates, Net Promoter Score (NSP) surveys and development journey concepts.

Measuring, demonstrating, and pricing value

Clear value propositions across these spheres are essential for measuring and demonstrating value. Some CDOs implement internal chargeback models, assigning costs to data initiatives. Others use “shadow” chargebacks and revenue accounts to allocate resources efficiently.


CDOs play a pivotal role in unlocking the potential of data, analytics and AI. Their ability to create, measure, and communicate value is essential for securing funding and driving data initiatives forward. In an era where data maturity precedes AI maturity, CDOs are at the forefront of shaping the future of organisations.

Insights from one of our industry speakers

In her articleGuiding Growth: The Vital Role of a Non-Executive Director in Shaping Corporate Success with Data & Digital”, Liz Henderson discusses the crucial role of a Non-Executive Director (NED) in shaping corporate success through data and digital strategies. The article emphasises the importance of having a diverse and effective board that includes a Data NED.

Here are the key points she mentions in her article.

Why a Data NED matters

In her article, Liz highlights the significance of engaging a Data NED before starting data initiatives. This strategic step helps avoid misdirection, ensures clear job descriptions, and aligns expectations for data roles with objectives.

Data leadership on boards

The article presents survey results indicating that a significant number of companies lack a senior individual accountable for data on their boards. The absence of such leadership can hinder data recognition and its potential to generate success and growth.

Adapting to technological changes

The article discusses the rapid pace of technological change and the importance of adapting to these changes. It mentions the potential productivity gains from AI and the need for businesses to evolve alongside these developments.

Global risks and business impact

The author highlights the interconnectedness of various global risks and their impact on businesses. Liz also mentions the need for boards to assess and include these risks in their risk register.

Challenges posed by digital transformation

Liz goes on to outline the challenges posed by digital transformation, including the risk of disruption, evolving data trends, project failures and the need for organisational resilience.

The power of data

According to Liz Henderson, harnessing the power of data is essential for innovation and transformation within organisations. Having a Data NED with the right skills is crucial to align an organisation’s data strategy with its business objectives.

Examples of success

The article provides examples of companies that have achieved success by having digital and data experts on their boards. These experts provide constructive challenges and contribute to decision-making.

Balancing risks and opportunities

Striking the right balance between risks and opportunities in data-driven strategies is highlighted as a key challenge. Having a skilled Data NED can help organisations manage this effectively.


The article concludes by emphasising the importance of having a Data NED, given that data is vital for organisational vitality and success. Overall, the article underscores the critical role of a Data NED in guiding businesses toward success in the digital age, highlighting the need for boards to recognise the value of data leadership.

We hope you found these insights into the world of data management and digital transformation useful.

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