AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

The Rise of the Chief Data Officer as a Data Leader

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Institute and the AWS Open Data Program convened chief data officers to discuss how to utilize data for the public good.


As organizations increasingly rely on data to accomplish their goals, they are adding a new role in order to balance expertise in statistics, policy, management, leadership, and rapidly evolving technology: the chief data officer (CDO). Although individuals with the same set of responsibilities may hold many titles, there has been a rapid growth in the role of the CDO in recent years.

The AWS Institute and Open Data Program hosted a round-table discussion on the role of the CDO, how CDOs collaborate with other members of their organizations, and the tools they need to responsibly and effectively use data. The discussion also touched on how users of data should engage with CDOs and the ethical issues CDOs need to consider as they manage data.

Here are a few takeaways from the dialogue:

  • The role of the CDO is constantly evolving: It tends to start with open data, then progresses to analytics and visualization, which requires strong communication skills. As data becomes more essential to organizations’ operations, CDOs need to train staff on data literacy and analytical skills, requiring program management and leadership skills. Evolution and growth are constant, but there is a need to grow in a sensible and cohesive way to realize the benefits of such a role.
  • A CDO needs to be able to communicate effectively: To work across multiple stakeholder groups like policy, regulators, and constituents, a CDO needs to communicate the value proposition of data and the constantly evolving role of the CDO.
  • Defining and understanding the data infrastructure and maturity model is key: As agencies produce more data, CDOs will need new tools and workflows to manage and analyze it. CDOs need to have a clear understanding of an agency’s existing capabilities so they can develop a plan to build capacity that will allow them to handle larger volumes of data.
  • There is a need to balance privacy with mission value: Data is an asset and a liability. A CDO plays an important role in developing systems that allow an agency to gather, store, share, and analyze data securely, ethically, and legally.
  • It is important to cultivate a culture that encourages data-sharing: Institutions undergoing digital transformation require leadership capable of articulating the value of data-sharing, setting up proper incentive structures, and empowering people to drive change.

Find out how the AWS Institute is engaging global leaders on some of the world’s most pressing issues.


Learn more from our AWS Public Sector Summit sponsor CloudCheckr.