CIOs collaborate with C-suite colleagues on a regular basis. Given the high value of data and analytics to business, among the most important of these relationships is the one a CIO develops with their chief data officer (CDO).

CDO is responsible for enterprise-wide governance and use of information as an asset, through data analysis, processing, mining, and other means. Considering the nature of their responsibilities, CIOs and CDOs are bound to have lots of opportunities to work together and must do so in a way beneficial to the enterprise as a whole.

“The CIO role has been around for over four decades, with the responsibility of managing the systems and infrastructure that produce business data and administering those repositories that contain data, including the oversight of business intelligence initiatives to exploit data assets for reporting and business insight,” says Su Rayburn, vice president of information management and analytics at Delta Community Credit Union (DCCU).

As data and analytics have become more critical to business, data volumes have increased significantly, and companies have turned to cloud and other technologies to scale and democratize their analytics strategies. “This has prompted many companies to add the CDO position to executive management, to be responsible for managing the strategy, quality, and governance of an increasingly crucial asset,” Rayburn says.

Vesting a senior leader with the exclusive role of managing all aspects of data, including governance, risk, compliance, policy, and business value realization management is increasingly seen as a solution for data-driven companies, Rayburn says. And with the introduction of these new C-suite colleagues, divisions of labor and lines of collaboration among data and IT teams are shifting along the systems/data divide.

Collaboration is key

The emergence of the CDO doesn’t mean CIOs are no longer involved in data projects. In fact, the two executives can work collaboratively to ensure that an organization is getting the most from its information resources.

“The CDO and the CIO should work in close collaboration and build a partnership and an alliance,” says Helena Schwenk, vice president and chief data and analytics officer at database software company Exasol.

“This alliance could prove quite useful, especially as many organizations remain keen on driving digital transformation,” Schwenk says. “As we very well know, data is [the] beating heart of any digital transformation.” It’s to the benefit of both to work closely together, she says.

“One of the most critical relationships I have is with our CIO,” says Kathy Rudy, chief data and analytics officer with technology research and advisory firm ISG.

“I look at the relationship as both tactical and strategic,” Rudy says. “From a tactical perspective, we need to have a common understanding and agreement around data security, privacy, retention, storage, taxonomy, data structures, and base technology for managing data across the enterprise. Once you have a common understanding of the foundational aspects of data, you can move on to the strategic; how to leverage data to drive business results.”

Rudy works with the CIO and business partners to develop products that monetize data for the firm.

“Having the tactical elements of our data ‘handled,’ we aren’t bogged down with questions about how we are going to do something, but rather we can focus on the art of the possible — what we can do with speed and agility,” Rudy says. “We have a creative license to develop new products leveraging APIs or microservices that combine our data into new and hopefully revenue-generating products.”

The team can also quickly respond to business requests for data that supports running the business, “which honestly are endless and previously took weeks to implement,” Rudy says. “We now look like superstars when we can say, ‘Yes, we can do that,’ and enable it overnight.”

Excelling at analytics

A strong CIO-CDO partnership positions companies well to leverage emerging technologies and data strategies, such as edge analytics.

“Data and analytics are essential to timely decision-making and fuel digital transformation,” Rayburn says. “It is hard to imagine efficient analytics without a well-designed data architecture working seamlessly with enterprise architecture. Given the co-custodianship of data, successful implementation of enterprise strategies will depend upon CDOs and CIOs working well together.”

Today, many applications employ embedded analytics to interact smartly with end users, Rayburn says. “Most of these apps employ edge analytics as they take in and analyze data in real-time at the application level to maintain a sub-second response,” she says. “Pulling this off will require a good partnership between the CIO and CDO, with data architects working with enterprise systems architects to ensure the requisite performance and scalability.”

DCCU has deployed analytics in its mobile banking app that required the company’s data scientists to develop alongside its systems architects, to ensure a cohesive architecture, Rayburn says.

Another area where CDOs and CIOs can work together is DataOps, a set of practices that combine an integrated and process-oriented perspective on data with automation and methods from agile software engineering to improve quality and speed and to promote a culture of continuous improvement in the area of data analytics.

“DataOps allows for the application of the DevOps methodology to ongoing deployment and maintenance of data or data analytics-intensive applications,” Rayburn says. “By adding data specialists to operational processes typically handled by IT, DataOps ensures the much-needed collaboration and integration between IT and data teams happens with the objective of seamless orchestration of data, tools, code, and environments.”

DCCU uses DataOps for its mobile apps to improve time to market for some of its customer-facing analytics products, through continuous delivery. “A data scientist works hand-in-hand with IT to test and implement analytics iterations in sandboxes for quick and continuous deployment of models,” Rayburn says.

When CDOs and CIOs work together, “joint strategizing, planning, developing, and coordinating will ensure an efficient division of labor that eliminates data silos and accelerates digital transformation,” Rayburn says.

Avoiding friction

Given that there will likely be overlap among the CIO and CDO responsibilities in some areas, there’s bound to be friction.

Data is generated by or consumed by the applications that enable the business,” says Marcus Murph, leader of CIO advisory at consulting firm KPMG. “This creates a natural friction between the CIO and CDO, as choices about data architecture, data governance, tools — and their costs — can conflict with broader IT operating model preferences.”

In addition, data must be secured, and this creates potential conflicts between data solutions and cybersecurity standards typically established by the CISO, Murph says. This can also create friction between CDOs and other executives. “None of these friction points needs [to] be counterproductive,” he says. “Proper operating model design explicitly identifies these points of friction and provides mechanisms to avoid or resolve conflicts.”

Both the CIO and CDO roles have a similar purpose in that they lead corporate efforts to drive positive business outcomes through the optimal use of technology, including data and related technology, Rayburn says.

Because data can’t be easily separated from its underlying technology infrastructure, there could be a conflict in terms of responsibilities, she says.

“Too many IT shops are still more vested in the infrastructure and technologies that house the data than the expertise to drive value from data, unless the CIO has traditionally maintained strong analytics focus,” Rayburn says.

The role of the CIO emerged in the mid-1980s, whereas the chief data officer is a relatively new appointment recently gaining traction in the face of increasing digitalization, Schwenk says.

“The lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities and the drivers for CDO appointments can mean there is friction between these two roles,” Schwenk says. “Their roles and responsibilities are dependent on the overarching business goals and where the organization is on its digital transformation journey. Still, there could be friction when it comes to how data is managed within the IT infrastructure, which could make CIOs feel threatened.”

For more progressive organizations, a clearer distinction between the roles and responsibilities of these senior leaders and where they fit into the organization is more common, Schwenk says.

Reporting structures

Where CIOs and CDOs fit into a company’s reporting structure varies based on the data maturity, industry, and state of digitalization in the business, Schwenk says. “Why the CDO has been appointed bears considerable weight [on] where they typically report,” she says.

According to the’s State of the CIO 2023 survey, 53% of CDOs report to the CIO or top IT executive, with 35% reporting to the CEO and 7% reporting to the CFO or top finance exec.

But the CDO role is evolving. The first generation focused on governance and compliance and building out a trustworthy data foundation, Schwenk says. The second generation had a solid foundation in the data governance and compliance area, but was also looking to drive business value from the data.

“This is actually where we see this tie-in with digital transformation cementing itself,” Schwenk says. “These CDOs placed greater emphasis on a more proactive approach to data management, rather than reacting to GDPR [General Data Privacy Regulation] and other privacy laws and regulations.”

For example, they began serving customers online by using data to provide a better customer experience, optimizing or digitalizing supply chains, or other things of that nature, Schwenk says.

“CDOs from the first generation, [who] tend to care more about managing and governing their data, report to the CIO or IT leader,” Schwenk says. “The second generation tends to be more business-oriented, which means they could report to a leader of the business function or the CEO. And research shows that CDOs reporting to the CEO tend to have more success. They have sponsorship, a clear sense of direction, etc.”

All this matters “because the use of data, exploitation, control and management and governance of data isn’t a purely technical decision, just for the IT department or assumed solely from the business side,” Schwenk says.

While CIOs typically have been more likely than CDOs to report to the CEO, this is changing, adds Abhijit Mazumder, CIO and global head of sales enablement at consulting firm TCS. “Increasingly, CDOs may report directly to the CEO,” he says. “In other cases, a CDO may report to the [general manager] of an individual business unit.”

To ensure success, the CIO and CDO must be closely aligned, Mazumder says. “In situations where both report to the CEO, this is even more important,” he says. “Because the roles may overlap in platforms and practices, conversations about new platforms, vendors, or even new revenue lines should always involve both leaders and their teams.”

Chief Data Officer, CIO, Data Management, IT Leadership

Employee experience has become a key factor in defining your company’s overall success. Positive or negative, employee experience can significantly impact your company’s productivity, efficiency, and its ability to recruit and retain talent. It can even impact your brand’s reputation long after an employee has exited the company.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the future of work by normalizing remote work, placing a new emphasis on workplace flexibility, and introducing hybrid workforce environments. It has also seen drastic changes around employee expectations and engagement, and significant challenges to long-held workplace assumptions. Because of this, business leaders are making employee experience a top priority like never before.

In the past, employee experience was built around location, typically an office building, which served as a central point for all employees. Research firm Gartner argues that today a good employee experience is all about human-centered design, which “prioritizes the human as the core pillar of work design over location, requiring a new set of principles, norms, and thinking.” Without a human-centric approach, which includes integrating flexibility, intentionality, and empathy into work policies and practices, organizations will struggle to attract and retain talent in today’s talent marketplace, Gartner contends.

Employee experience definition

Employee experience encompasses everything your employees experience, from the moment they are recruited to their journeys onward as alumni of the company. While the steps and facets of the employee life cycle vary by company and industry, there are common milestones that define the employee experience across the board. These milestones include the recruitment process, onboarding, training, development, evaluation and promotion, exiting, and the alumni experience.

Why is employee experience important?

Employee experience has a significant influence on business success, especially around turnover and productivity. According to Gartner, when employees report a positive employee experience, they are 60% more likely to stay with the company, 69% more likely to be high performers, and 52% more likely to report “high discretionary effort,” which is work they do above and beyond their daily responsibilities. Embracing a human-centric approach to employee experience can also reduce work fatigue by 44%, increase “intent to stay” by 45%, and improve performance by 28%, according to Gartner.

Remote work has become more normalized since the COVID-19 pandemic, challenging long-held assumptions about when and where work is performed. Organizations can no longer rely on a top-down office culture alone to shape the employee experience. Instead, they must design workflows and business processes around human physical, cognitive, and emotional needs.

Employee experience strategy

A human-centric approach to the employee experience addresses the growing expectations of employees to have flexibility and empathy at work. That means acknowledging demands for hybrid work, accepting that the future of work has fundamentally changed, and embracing autonomy, visibility, and inclusion in the workplace.

While 14% of employees prefer to work from a corporate office exclusively, and 10% prefer to be fully remote, 76% want some type of flexibility between the two, according to Gartner data. Employees are also shown to be more productive when given the opportunity for flexibility and are more likely than their on-site peers to go above and beyond their job description, according to the research firm.

In addition to flexibility, employees want systems, tools, and software that make their jobs easier, without causing delays or impinging on productivity. It’s important to have a streamlined effort around technology in the company, ensuring everyone has access to the data or systems they need. All systems, networks, software, and hardware should also be as efficient as possible. Everyone needs to have the appropriate tools to effectively do their jobs, without running into headaches when using them.

But the most important facets of developing an employee experience strategy are ensuring that you know what employees want, have the means to measure challenges and progress, and put your employees at the center of every step of their employment journey.

Employee experience best practices

Organizations with “vision maturity,” the highest level of employee experience, according to Gartner, typically exhibit the following characteristics:

They take a holistic view of employees, seeing them as a “whole person,” including their personal and social experiences inside and outside of work.
They realize the overall contribution of employees outside of their job descriptions and time with the company.
They identify “moments that matter” in the employee experience and build objectives and goals that support all types of employees and personalities in the organization.
They have “clear cross-functional ownership and goal alignment” of the employee experience outside of just the HR department that’s aligned with the overall organizational goals and culture.
They implement an employee experience strategy that supports two-way communication and expectations with employees, allowing them to share their opinions and ideas openly.
They develop an architecture that enables IT, HR, and other leaders to plan and organize initiatives relevant to specific business roles, tasks, and other objectives.

Common employee experience mistakes

On the opposite end, organizations that rank on the lowest levels of employee experience have a limited focus, typically implementing one-off initiatives or relying too much on employee experience tools. According to Gartner, companies that have a lower-ranked employee experience typically struggle with:

A lack of understanding of the impact of employee experience and of the building blocks that go into employee experience
Having restrictive views on the overall employee journey, focusing only on “major career moments” rather than the more granular day-to-day responsibilities and work of employees
Being too depending on technology to improve the employee experience, and often having unrealistic expectations from the tools and software implemented
Fragmented and overlapping systems and processes, which introduce friction that impact employee satisfaction and productivity

Measuring employee experience

Employee experience platforms and tools help companies manage the employee experience while also getting feedback on what they’re doing right and what needs to change. These tools can also help enable employees to have a voice in the organization, giving them a platform to express how they feel about various initiatives or business processes.

You don’t want your employee experience data to be hidden away in a “black box,” says Tori Paulman, a senior director analyst at Gartner. It’s important that the information is accessible to all stakeholders and that it helps piece together a clear picture of what the employee experience is like within the organization.

Another way to measure the employee experience is through employee resource groups (ERGs). When it comes to ensuring technical resources are providing a positive experience, Paulman suggests that CIOs leverage ERGs to get broad feedback on “how the applications are being perceived and how effective they are for various groupings of employees that you might have in the workplace.”

Ultimately you need the tools that will supply the data to help identify all the pain points in the organization, initiatives that are working positively, and areas for improvement. There’s no one-size-fits-all to the employee experience, so it’s important to identify various departmental or even employee-specific needs within the organization. Employee experience platforms can help capture these.

IT’s role in the employee experience

Employee experience has historically fallen on the desks of HR staff, but as it grows increasingly digital, the CIO and IT department now have a bigger role than ever in the process, according Paulman.

Gartner states that by 2025, more than 50% of IT organizations will prioritize and measure the success of digital initiatives based off the digital employee experience — a significant jump from just 5% of companies who said the same in 2021. Similarly, by 2024, 60% of large global organizations will deploy no less than five human capital management and digital workplace technologies to address employee experience needs.

“The CIO and the leaders that report to them have to lean in and take ownership over employee experience. We see an imperative for the CIO to step into the circle and say, ‘I’m going to own the day-to-day employee experience and I’m going to support HR leaders and facilities leaders,’ because a huge part of [employee experience] is the connections and the collaboration of humans and the place in which it’s done. And it’s my position that the CIO has the greatest impact on that on a day-to-day basis,” says Paulman.

Technology is fundamental to the employee experience and it includes everything from what recruiting software you use, to the daily collaboration tools, to the software used to offboard employees can impact the digital employee experience. It’s even important to consider an employee’s lifelong experience with technology.

Paulman gives the example of an architect who started their career with pencils and paper and now works with fully digital programs and tools. Some employees may have a learning curve with technology used in the organization or may have used entirely different tools at their last company. It’s important to ensure that all considerations around technology are considered and made a central part of employee experience initiatives.

Aligning digital efforts so that they can support the overall employee experience strategy within the organization will allow digital leaders to effectively prioritize projects and resources. Whereas not aligning those efforts will only result in “siloed applications and unhappy employees,” according to Gartner. 

For more on what CIOs can do, see “How IT can improve the employee experience.”

Careers, IT Leadership, Staff Management

CIO Africa: What is your sense of the current trade landscape in Africa in light of supply chain issues that arose from the pandemic and war in Ukraine?

Typically in supply chains, there are three parameters that are important: cost, reliability, and length of the supply chain, or the time it takes to connect from one market to another. During COVID-19, all three of these were affected quite significantly by air, sea, and land. Trucks were impacted because of increased restrictions; air passenger capacity basically stopped, which included a lot of cargo, causing a lot of disruption; and on the sea front, a lot of capacity was lost in China with the zero COVID-19 policy, in addition to unions in the US going on strike at Long Beach, which is the largest port servicing that market. So it’s been a difficult time. In Africa, the first major impact came from COVID-19 itself via the restrictions that were brought in by countries in terms of movement. The second came from the three modes of transport being impacted by artificial removal of supply, resulting in massive price increases. Third, now with the war in Ukraine, the basic cost of fuel, which was very low during the COVID-19 period, increased significantly. But things are improving. My view is that China is slowly normalising as global demand is falling sharply because of inflation. So even though the supply problem is not getting solved, we’re starting to see a significant normalisation of rates. What isn’t happening still is the reliability and the aspect of timeliness to reach key markets. These are both still challenges.

Many of those issues feel out of the control of African businesses. What can companies on the continent do to fortify themselves against shocks to the system?

What’s been happening is that many of the large companies who own the infrastructure, like KLM, Air France, ships, and large trucking firms, don’t really operate in Africa. They’re constantly looking for the highest value creation, so they tend to go places that either offer extremely good prices or have the capacity to do large volumes and have extremely good infrastructure that improves their efficiency. So the thing we need to do in Africa is to reduce the friction that operates within the chain. When ships come into a port in Mombasa, for instance, we need to streamline the processes so they don’t have to spend a lot of time sorting out basic processes, which is what happens today. And when a plane lands in Cape Town with cargo, how can we reduce the amount of bureaucracy that is needed? If you do that, you’ll start seeing a lot of traffic, and people will start pricing things correctly. 

Mehul Bhatt

Supply Chain, Transportation and Logistics Industry

Developed by Zuellig Pharma, eZRx is ASEAN’s largest B2B eCommerce platform for the healthcare industry – offering a smarter and more convenient way to buy and sell healthcare products online, anywhere and anytime, versus reps visiting clients face-to-face.

As COVID-19 began spreading its tentacles through Asia, Zuellig Pharma, one of the continent’s largest healthcare services groups needed to ensure that medicines and healthcare products – from vaccines to personal protection equipment (PPEs) – were delivered in a timely and efficient manner.

Given the urgency, Zuellig Pharma could not rely on a manual system to place and process orders and returns as well as payment requests. Efficiency and effectiveness needed to be optimized further. With much of the world locked down during the pandemic, the number of touchpoints to connect with customers was also vastly reduced.

Zuellig Pharma adopted a transformative innovation to ensure that its 350,000 customers and 1,000 clients – including the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies – could have timely access to essential medicines and lifesaving products during this critical period.

And it happened to launch when the world needed it most.

A 24/7 lifeline

Zuellig Pharma provides distribution, digital, and commercial services in 13 markets across Asia, serving more than 350,000 medical facilities and over 1,000 clients in the region.

As COVID-19 cases escalated, the company’s B2B eCommerce platform – eZRx for healthcare practitioners, clinics, and hospitals – aptly enabled customers and sales reps to buy and sell healthcare products anytime, anywhere, without needing to meet others physically. It also reduced pricing errors and consolidated important information in a single location.

The solution is powered by SAP’s ERP Central Component (ECC), an on-premises enterprise resource planning system, along with SAP HANA data management software. With the SAP software, eZRx could integrate finance, inventor, and product data seamlessly on the web as well as on mobile devices.

Turning the tide against the pandemic

Deployed in March 2020 – the same month that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international pandemic – eZRx was able to ensure the smooth delivery of PPEs and other crucial medical supplies including COVID-19 vaccines, enabling healthcare professionals to do their jobs safely during this challenging time.

Through eZRx, customers could also have “full visibility of Zuellig Pharma’s product offerings and self-service, without having to wait for a pharma representative,” said Daniel Laverick, the group’s SVP, head of digital and data solutions. “Sales reps could also free up their time to focus on more meaningful tasks as well as provide customers with an omnichannel experience, enabled by e-detailing.”

In addition, the company could now safeguard compliance with international regulations with a database mapping specific customers’ product licensing restrictions. If a purchaser attempts to access any of the items via eZRx that are not market-compliant, the products are not shown.

In 2021, Zuellig Pharma was able to automate 11.6 million order lines, reducing the manual ones in half, and generating $1.2 million in annual productivity gains.

The development of a life-saving platform in the COVID-19 era earned Zuellig Pharma a 2022 SAP Innovation Award, an annual honor commemorating organizations that have used SAP products to benefit both business and society.

You can read the details behind Zuellig Pharma’s amazing accomplishment in their Innovation Awards pitch deck.

Data Management