Does Today’s CIO Play the Part of Über-Data Scientist?


In the world of executives, IT, and especially BI, there’s a ton of talk surrounding two new and quickly-shifting job roles. Both are very demanding and interesting roles, specifically that of the Data Scientist and that of today’s CIO. In this post I discuss any parallels that might exists between these two roles.

Data Scientist

Usually, data scientists are expected to do a combination of the technical IT duties, various types of analytics tasks, and high-end consulting to the business leadership. The term “data scientist” has turned into the label used for a whole package of job roles consisting of a data specialist, data analysts, data engineer, and business intelligence analyst, all wrapped up in in one person.

In fact, a full-blown data scientist is expected to cover the following 4 domains that make up business analytics:

Business analytics - the domain of the data scientist

“Today’s CIO”

New, more consumer-focused models of business need a new type of technology and business leader straddling both the realms of IT and business in an organization. The CIO of today must handle a lot of new and occasionally overlapping disruptive technologies, align these new technologies with the goals of the business to produce value for the company while carefully thinking about and navigating what is financially possible for the technology of the company. The CIO of today is responsible for implementing and and deploying technology to meet the needs of the business. This “New CIO” is responsible for creating business strategies to utilize existing information technology assets of the company, while making innovations as a key driver of the business. This person must serve as true leader of the business with a strong foundation in technology and an especially strong informational foundation.

As the lines converge between the strategies of IT and business, the “CIO of today” must be able to handle juggling between four different types of C”I”O personas:

  • The traditional Chief “Infrastructure” Officer needs to focus on reductions in cost and how to make the system more cost efficient in relation to IT. Most of this centers around keeping existing systems functioning and managing legacy and current IT infrastructure. The introduction of disruptive technologies like the cloud and virtualization also must be considered in initiatives to reduce cost. This roles is purely focused on technology.
  • The Chief “Integration” Officer must manage technical connections that exist between external and internal systems. A huge collection of application systems, data, business processes and inter-connection points have to be integrated, occasionally this also includes incorporating service-oriented architectures, legacy systems, and newer cloud infrastructures, applications and services. This also is a technological role, but impacted by perceived benefits to the company.
  • The Chief “Intelligence” Officer is required to empower the company by offering new and actionable insights, as pulled via existing as well as new data – taken from both external and internal sources of data. The main focus is to enhance access to information for business-users’, with the goal of giving the correct data to the correct person at the right moment via interface that they should use. The timeliness of access to information and delivery of the info has become crucial to the success of the business. This role straddles the gap that exists between BI and business.
  • The Chief “Innovation” Officer needs to determine disruptive applications of information and analytics as well as disruptive technologies that are going to directly impact business strategy. These are often accomplished through the use of pilot or discovery projects. The Chief Innovation Officer needs a strong background in business, and needs to be ready to move quickly, fail quickly, and move forward. This role is mainly oriented towards business.

Parallel lines

If we analyse both jobs at the same time, then there appear to be many parallels:

  • Both jobs must be more conscious of the company’s business nature than the traditional more technical role of the CIO and the more technical role of the data analyst. Incumbents in both jobs must to understand the way the business runs inside-out – especially the company’s goals, drivers, strategic initiatives of the company and so on.
  • Both jobs must to begin leading the company from an information-insight perspective, and create insights about the ways that the information can be utilized to directly impact the bottom line.
  • Both roles must have a deeper understanding of how analytics work is performed, including advanced analytics (i.e. customer segmentation, predictive, business forecasting models, customer churn) and what business value is added from analytical insights. Both must understand how business strategy changes as a result of business analytics.
  • Rewards were given when the traditional, more technical role of the CIO and the more technical role of data analysts ran in a cost-effective and smooth manner. Accolades for data scientists and for today’s CIO will be received when they generate insights that create a positive impact on the company – so for both cases, technical implementation by information technology has become the enabler.
  • From a financial perspective, both positions’ focus has shifted from management of costs to generation of revenue.

Career advice

For young readers… do you fancy becoming an executive? Possibly a CIO? I recommend you to become a business-oriented data scientist (read the job spec here) or a BI Business Analyst, create many experiences within the company – maybe orient yourself to one particular industry – then add to that an MBA, at which point you should be qualified and well-suited for the role of CIO.


If we examine overlaps between both positions, as well as the parallels that exist for what these roles are intended to focus on, then there’s no doubt that new CIO of today is an “Uber Data Scientist”. The role that the data scientist fills for the company, the “New CIO” must fill at the executive level. In fact, if they both exist and are doing what they are intended to do, then they should turn into best mates. The data scientist becomes they key enabler and “data jockey” for the “New CIO” to take and drive the insights and innovations at the executive level.

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