Top 3 Goals & Challenges for CDAOs in 2023

2023 Survey Report

Data and analytics are cornerstone to nearly every aspect of the enterprise. From providing critical insight to the C-suite to improving supply chain efficiencies to enabling personalized customer experiences and more, Chief Data & Analytics Officers (CDAOs) are aligning their objectives with the overall business strategy to drive value for the organization.

However, many data and analytics leaders struggle to communicate the value to key stakeholders. Carlie Idoine, VP Analyst at Gartner stated, “CDAOs must deliver tangible business outcomes for their organizations and stakeholders, but they struggle to show value. Leaders need to prove how D&A can improve business processes, lead to better decisions and support digital transformation.” 

In addition, an unstable economy, years of disruption and constantly shifting directions are only amplifying the difficulties CDAOs face. Through all of these challenges, how are CDAOs planning to support the enterprise now and in the future?

Every year at Evanta, a Gartner company, we conduct a Leadership Perspective Survey of our C-level communities to understand their mission critical priorities for the year. Since we shared the initial results, over 400 data and analytics executives provided responses. 

The CDAOs indicated their key focus areas and planned actions for 2023, and here we are diving into their top goals and challenges for the year ahead.

The Top Five Priorities for CDAOs in 2023

Looking holistically at the results, data and analytics leaders have been consistent in their top 3 priorities over the past few years: data governance, data-driven culture and data literacy and data democratization. Although they are the same priorities from years prior, there are nuances as to why they remain on the list, which will be examined later in this report.

As for their #4 and #5 priorities, these tend to shift year-over year. For 2023, data and analytics strategy is back in the top 5 - it was #3 in 2021 and dropped from the list in 2022 - and managing data quality has risen to the #5 spot, up from #8 last year. There are many reasons as to why these areas are growing in importance, but the rapid acceleration of generative AI is a notable trend, throwing a curveball for how CDAOs approach their plans and ensure quality data in the future.

Creating a Framework for Data Governance

Data and analytics governance is foundational for efficient data flow and quality data, and it continues to be the #1 priority and top spending area for CDAOs for the fifth year in a row. There is not a “one-size-fits-all approach” to developing a data governance framework, and as data volumes multiply, data sharing and integration grow and organization structure becomes more complex, data governance becomes even more challenging.

Most CDAOs shared that their top goal for data governance is improving processes and efficiencies (59%) and about half of respondents identified making data-driven decisions and improving business outcomes as top goals. Regarding challenges, company culture and siloed operating models tied as the greatest roadblocks to success with 45% of respondents citing each of these issues.

Goals for Data Governance

59% Improving processes and efficiencies

49% Making data-driven decisions

48% Improving business outcomes

Challenges for Data Governance

45% Company culture

45% Siloed operating models

43% Competing priorities

Data and analytics leaders shared how they are addressing and thinking about data governance this year. Here are a few of their responses:

Have a data governance council in place to look at issues of data in the business. This installs a sense of confidence and belief in the data, and it’s a place to talk about how to bridge gaps with data and what steps can be taken to fix issues.”

Organizations are seeing data as not a piece of technology but as enabling value… and it’s very difficult to attribute value to data governance activities, i.e., why do you need this, how will it benefit the company.”

This topic is continuing to dominate the conversation across our CDAO programs, and survey respondents indicated they are looking to discuss data governance execution (79%) and strategy (77%) with their peers.  Just recently, the New York CDAO Community came together for an interactive Town Hall on  “Data Governance — Unleashing the Power of Data” - read the key takeaways.

Developing Data-Driven Culture & Data Literacy throughout the Enterprise

Data-driven culture and data literacy is the #2 priority for CDAOs in 2023. Over the years, change management has become a critical responsibility of the CDAO, and they are being called to not only influence the workforce to embrace data for performance enhancement, but also provide the training and resources to help the business understand and use available data.

Overwhelmingly, the top goal for data-driven culture and literacy is to help the business make data-driven decisions (76%) and breaking down current company culture is their greatest challenge.

Goals for Data-Driven Culture & Literacy

76% Making data-driven decisions

63% Improving business outcomes

46% Delivering and defining value

Challenges for Data-Driven Culture & Literacy

53% Company culture

52% Employee adoption

50% Siloes operating model

CDAOs shared how they are implementing data culture and literacy programs at their organizations:

To get people to understand how to use data effectively, build collaboration with the CHRO.”

Create a catalog of understanding by a non-data specialist. This allows anybody to know what data you have, improving culture and empowerment.”

We’re focused on creating a data literate workforce… starting with helping people understand what we mean by these terminologies.”

When asked what they would like to learn from their peers on this topic, almost two-thirds of CDAO respondents shared that they are looking to validate strategies around data culture and literacy. On Evanta’s The Next Big Question podcast, Moin Haque, EVP, Chief Data Officer at Warner Music Group discussed how organizations can empower, transform and liberate with data - listen here.

Expanding Data Democratization & Self-Service

There cannot be a bustling data-driven culture without data democratization and self-service, the #3 priority for CDAOs this year. In addition to cultural benefits, providing the workforce with data accessibility, sharing and self-service capabilities improves processes and efficiencies and frees the Data Center to work on true value-add initiatives.   

Almost three-quarters of respondents shared that their top goal for data democratization and self-service is to help with data-driven decision making (73%). When it comes to their greatest challenges in this area, it is a close call between siloed operating models (41%) and issues with employee adoption (40%).

Goals for Data Democratization & Self-Service

73% Making data-driven decisions

62% Improving business outcomes

45% Improving processes and efficiencies

Challenges for Data Democratization & Self-Service

41% Siloed operating models

40% Employee adoption

35% Competing Priorities

A few CDAOs shared their thoughts in this area:

We must empower others to be independent and self-sustaining. Avoid IT being the end-all of data.”

You can invest in huge business intelligence systems, but how do you make it accessible in a cost-effective way?”

As self-service becomes more and more important, how should we think about security in data mesh and fabric?”

Eighty percent of respondents indicated that they are looking to learn execution tips from their peers in regards to data democratization and self-service this year. Recently, Monish Balasundaram, Head of Analytics, Amazon and Governing Body Member of the Dallas CDAO Community shared insight into the value of data democratization and five best practices to avoid pitfalls - read the article.

CDAOs Top Enterprise Priorities in 2023

In the survey, executives were also asked about their top objectives as an enterprise leader. Here you can see a comparative analysis of the top enterprise priorities across all of Evanta’s C-level communities:

CDAOs joined their peers across the aisle in naming driving growth and increasing operational efficiencies and productivity as mission critical priorities this year, and they are in parallel with most of their C-level peers concentrating on digital business acceleration.

Interestingly, CDAOs differ from the rest of executives when it comes to their #4 and #5 priorities for 2023. While the economy is putting pressure on many members of the C-suite, optimizing or reducing costs did not make it into their top 5 priorities this year - it’s #6. Instead, they focusing more on improving customer experience (#4) and innovating for competitive advantage (#5). In fact, they are the only member of the C-suite with innovation as a top area of focus this year.

What’s Next for CDAOs

In conjunction with the Leadership Perspective survey, we spoke with CDAO Governing Body Members to gather qualitative data, confirm the results and learn interesting stories to share with the greater community. Through these conversations, many data and analytics leaders shared trending topics of interest to them, including generative AI, data as a product and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) - with generative AI being presented by nearly every CDAO. 

AI and machine learning jumped to #6 on CDAOs’ list of top functional priorities for 2023, which is a major increase from being second to last on the list (#17) in 2022 and 2021. Generative AI and ChatGPT are changing the digital landscape, and CDAOs are assessing the potential use cases and risks of implementing these models.

The results of the Leadership Perspective Survey and executive interviews are a two-fold process that inform the agendas at community gatherings, ensuring each engagement is built “by CDAOs, for CDAOS.” Join your local CDAO community to connect with like-minded data and analytics peers on these mission critical priorities and trending topics - apply to join today.

This article is an update to our previous report, which you can find here: Top 3 Goals & Challenges for CDAOs in 2022.

Based on more than 400 CDAOs’ responses to Evanta’s 2023 Leadership Perspective Survey.

by CDAOs, for CDAOs

Join the conversation with peers in your local CDAO community.