Why Do Chief Data Officers Have Such Short Tenures?

Harvard Business Review
Tom Davenport; Randy Bean; Josh King
August 18, 2021


  • The Chief Data Officer is arguably one of the most important roles at a company.
  • It’s also a position that has become notoriously hard to stay in.
  • The average tenure of CDOs is just two to two-and-a-half years. 

There are a few reasons for this. 

  • The role is relatively new, so companies are still trying to decide what they want from the person in this position. 
  • Many companies expect the impossible from their CDO. 
  • Finally, CDOs often have trouble selling their actual accomplishments to a business audience — they just don’t speak the language. 

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. One successful CDO imparted two pieces of advice: 

  1. Start with a clear connection to business strategy with tangible examples of how data analytics can drive business outcomes (topline, bottom line, cash, stewardship), and 
  2. lead with 1–2 forward thinking business partners to demonstrate what is possible. 

Those partners become the change agents across the organization.

Originally published at https://hbr.org on August 18, 2021.

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