Top 3 Goals & Challenges for CDOs in 2022

2022 Survey Report

Data leaders know how digitalization and data-driven insights can provide businesses with strategic advantages, and the unpredictable landscape of recent years has proven the value of data to leaders across industries. The role of the CDO is becoming more prominent in organizations across the globe to unlock opportunities for growth and  innovation, but the lack of an established, data-driven culture is hindering the transformation journey. How can CDOs advance the business while breaking down these barriers?

Hundreds of CDOs responded to Evanta’s annual Leadership Perspective Survey to report the mission critical priorities and common challenges they are facing in 2022, and our CDO communities are convening regularly to discuss these matters.

In this year’s survey, data and analytics executives identified driving growth, improving customer experience and digital business acceleration as the top priorities across the enterprise. And here, we are diving deeper into the top priorities and challenges specific to the data function and sharing how CDOs are tackling these issues. 

The Top Five Priorities for CDOs

Over 350 CDOs completed the Leadership Perspective Survey this year, and trends are split between recurring issues and a new mix of priorities. 

Data governance and data-driven culture remain the top areas of focus while priorities #3-#5 have shifted from a focus on data strategy and communication to actionable initiatives, including data sharing, availability and democratization; analytics-based decision making; and self-service data, models and analytics.

Building a Data Governance Framework

As technology continues to advance and data leaders grapple with numerous legacy and cloud environments across each business unit, it is no surprise that data governance is the leading priority for CDOs for the second year in a row. 

Most CDOs stated that the primary goal for their data governance framework is improving processes and efficiencies (60%), and their greatest challenge is siloed operating models (43%).

Goals for Data Governance

60% Improving processes and efficiencies

55% Improving business outcomes

52% Making data-driven decisions

Challenges for Data Governance

43% Siloed operating models

39% Employee adoption

30% Lack of skills

CDOs are disclosing the impact of data governance on their future roadmaps:  

Governance and MDM [Master Data Management] are foundational platforms and table stakes that really ignite and accelerate other digital initiatives. You have to get them right.”

How you execute a robust data governance framework is vital… It needs to be the right platform and accessible across the organization.”

There is no global data governance policy currently. There is one per country. Our goal at the top is that we want to settle this.”

Establishing a Data-Driven Culture 

Not only are CDOs responsible for building and managing data systems, they are also tasked to be advocates for data literacy, utilization and collaboration across the business. It takes time to establish a data-driven culture, and CDOs listed it as the #2 most important priority for the second year in a row.

In the survey, data and analytics leaders made it clear that their primary goal for data-driven culture is to ensure data-driven decisions are being made and acted upon (77%). Their biggest challenges are overcoming the current company culture (56%) and employee adoption (50%).

Goals for Data-driven Culture

77% Making data-driven decisions

70% Improving business outcomes

52% Developing talent and skills

Challenges for Data-driven Culture

56% Company culture

50% Employee adoption

47% Lack of skills

CDOs are sharing questions to ask when introducing cultural and organizational change:

In order to drive culture change, data literacy needs to be viewed through an employee lens. How does data literacy create impact? How [do we] overcome slow employee adoption when business change is gradual?”

From a cultural point of view, what does data mean to the person who is using it? What is the criticality of the data being used? Does the data contain any sensitive information? Accountability and understanding of data is important for a good data culture.”

How do you drive agility into the world of data and use Agile as a way of working with data? That is the cultural change we're trying to focus on.”

Enhancing Data Sharing, Availability and Democratization 

To have a true data-driven culture, it is critical for each individual within an organization to have education and access to data products for their specific needs. With hundreds or thousands of employees and ever-changing business models, this can be complex, and CDOs named data sharing, availability and democratization as the third most important priority for 2022 (a newcomer to the list this year).

CDOs selected improving business outcomes (57%) and making data-driven decisions (56%) as their top objectives for 2022. When it comes to challenges, more than half of respondents stated they are struggling with siloed operating models (56%).

Goals for Data Sharing, Availability and Democratization

57% Improving business outcomes

56% Making data-driven decisions

40% Improving processes and efficiencies

Challenges for Data Sharing, Availability and Democratization

56% Siloed operating models

44% Legacy technology

40% Company culture

CDOs are emphasizing the importance of data sharing, availability and democratization within their organizations:

Data sharing is more powerful than data ethics. It’s important to use data in a trustworthy way. What can we do to prepare the ecosystem?”

It’s important to understand there is value from the data the organization has - we just need to understand how to look after it, and share it appropriately.”

We can't be everywhere because we're a small team. During the pandemic, we catered to everyone’s needs, but we can't anymore. All the learnings we have created through analytic work, we make that available to our workforce. We make sure they [data dictionaries and catalogs] are available so other teams can make decisions... Consistency and scale is important.”

What Lies Ahead for CDOs

Through the Leadership Perspective Survey, it is evident that CDOs across the board are focusing on improving business outcomes and data-driven decision making, and they are struggling with siloed business models and company culture.

To get a better grasp of these results, we spoke with members of Evanta’s CDO communities to learn about their experiences and how they are responding to these challenges. During our conversations, there were many recurring themes, most notably the significance of data perception and the necessity to implement self-service data products and models. 

Data Perception:
For data leaders who embark on the unending transformation journey, data perception has everything to do with change management. Not everyone embraces change, and this can pose considerable challenges for adoption. One CDO shared, “We’re a 100 year old institution with strong legacy systems and culture. There are many tenured employees who are used to doing things in a certain way that may be resistant to change.”

Additionally, the notion of data needs to be positive from all levels within the organization. Another CDO shared their struggle with leadership’s data perception, “The leadership buy-in as to why data governance is important is challenging, because there isn't direct ROI from the governance implementation project. The benefit is the quicker data analytics enabled by the strong governance.”

Another data leader provided their strategy for improving attitudes about data within their organization, “The strategy to overcome this [data perception] and increase data awareness is through building relationships with regional leaders and understanding how they work with data in their function.”

Many CDOs expressed how self-service models and tools are crucial to increasing the speed and effectiveness of data-driven decisions - and in turn business growth. One CDO shared, “Leadership can no longer be handed a data report and be explained what it means by a data scientist. Employees need to develop self-service skills so they are able to query data decisions. Decisions need to be powered by data, and this will trickle down from a data-driven culture.”

Another executive mentioned how self-service models can help increase user adoption, “How to overcome slow employee adoption when the business change is gradual? How does data play a part in speeding up the pace of change? Self-service is not an outcome itself but a conduit…  The value of encouraging data literacy through a self-service approach is that it creates a framework for CDOs to create intrinsic value.”

Let Your Voice be Heard

Evanta’s annual Leadership Perspective Survey is just one of many ways CDOs around the world can learn from their C-level peers. Evanta’s local CDO communities meet both in person and virtually throughout the year to discuss the mission critical priorities and challenges addressed in this survey and connect with each other on a personal level. Click here to see when your community is meeting next, and join the conversation.


Based on more than 350 CDOs’ responses to Evanta’s 2022 Leadership Perspective Survey.

by CDOs, for CDOs

Join the conversation with peers in your local CDO community.