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Chief Data Literacy Officer (CDLO) – the new champion in the data world

The Chief Data Literacy Officer is not yet a role in the Data Management organization but must be – very soon.

While the role of the Chief Data Officer has not completely been recognized or manned in many cases, and may not have matured as of now, is the need for a new entry into the C-suite world truly warranted?

Well, the response to this is an emphatic “Yes!”

Why do organizations need a CDLO?

Data is an asset that fuels business growth through differentiation, hyper digitization and personalization and will be used in every single business decision, understanding, and using data assumes critical importance. Hence, going forward, Data Literacy will be a top priority of the leadership teams and the need for the Chief Data Officer (CDO) to have an ally who will complement the efforts to create a data-driven culture by boosting Data Literacy initiatives. The CDLO will carry the responsibilities to drive the usage of data in every activity of the business and empower the business units to make decisions based on data. The CDLO can thus be a part of a multi-function CDO organization or an independent organization driving the Data Literacy efforts in conjunction with various other units like the Learning & Development Teams and business and IT functions.  Whatever is the structure adopted, the objectives will be the same – to create a matured data literacy organization that understands and uses data to meet the goals and priorities of the enterprise.

So, can the CDO not do this?

While the CDO is assigned with the management of numerous tasks associated with the data lifecycle, his/her focus will be to drive various initiatives to operationalize and institutionalize Data Governance initiatives, manage analytics, innovation, and business value creation. On the other hand, the CDLO will drive Data Literacy efforts to create a Data-in-the DNA culture by increasing the democratization and usage of data.

Thus emerges the need for this new role – and this is how the CDLO’s role should shape up.

  1. The CDLO must be part of the CXO level in an organization.
  2. The chief KRA of the CDLO should be to improve the Data Literacy quotient/index within the organization.
  3. In organizations which have just started their journey in data management, the CDLO can complement the CDO and report in to the CDO /CDAO/CIO organization, but as the data management practices mature, the reporting of the CDLO can be steered to being independent of the CDO.
  4. In an organization with matured data management practices, the CDLO can be a separate organization structure, reporting into the business.
  5. The CDLO should be treated as an operational and strategic need of the organization and hence should be treated as a business function.
  6. CDLO should ideally be a business leader with in-depth understanding of the organization’s business and the Data and Analytics interventions needed to run and grow the same.
  7. CDLO’s office should be an empowered unit with all requisite resources at its disposal – manpower, IT systems and budgets.
  8. There should be clearly defined KPI’s & CSF’s for measuring success of the CDLO organization.
  9. The CDLO’s office should not only play a role in defining the organizations Data Literacy strategy and plan, but also be involved in developing the Data and Analytics Strategy and future roadmap.
  10. The Data Literacy Council and Data Literacy Academy should be a part of the CDLO organization, but the patronage should come from the CEO/COO.
  11. A clearly defined organization structure and operating model must be created for CDLO’s office comprising – Strategy, Operations, Governance, Digital and Collaboration functions clearly defined.
  12. The CDLO must work closely with the Change Management & the Learning & Development teams.
  13. CDLO should also play a role in any organization wider business initiatives, like Growth and Transformation, acquisitions, merger/de-merger.
  14. The CDLO will complement the CDO; hence his office should work closely with CDO/CAO organization in ensuring data led initiatives (self-service, new age architectures and tooling, cloudification etc.) needed towards a data driven organization are in sync with the Data Literacy Plan and various Data Literacy programs.
  15. The CDLO’s organization structure and operating model should mimic the established Data Governance model (either a hub-n-spoke structure or a federated structure with loose central control). In fact, the Data Literacy programs should incorporate the Governance practices from the Corporate Data Governance framework. The Data Governance scorecard should have KPIs & CSFs of the CDLO office, and the Data Literacy council should function under the supervision of DG council.
  16. A typical CDLO organization will comprise a corporate/enterprise Data Literacy Office and business unit specific Data Literacy offices.
  17. The CDLO will have various roles reporting into him, like Data Literacy Head, LOB specific Data Literacy Heads and comprise other roles like Data Literacy Champions who will drive the Data Literacy efforts at a granular level within their remit.


The CDLO’s chief KRA will be to improve the levels of Data Literacy within an enterprise and ensure the required training programs are designed and rolled out. Ensuring the right KPIs are created and tracked is another critical area of focus for the CDLO and his office. KPIs help track and measure progress and quantify results of Data Literacy programs.

The CDLO, along with the CDO, should design various types of Data Literacy programs with clear measurement criteria of success and create an environment that enables employees to put into practice what has been learnt through the training programs. Opportunities need to be created to ensure the employees can apply their knowledge to use data more effectively. Constant feedback must be sought to improve the Data Literacy programs.

Some of the metrics that can be tracked for reviewing the success of Data Literacy training programs are:

1)      The types of training programs offered – is there a wide range to cover various levels of maturity and employees?

2)      The number of employees who have enrolled for the programs

3)      The number of employees who have completed the courses

4)      The no of employees who have obtained the certification

5)      No of occasions where decisions have been taken based on data

6)      No of employees who are using data in their day-to-day work

7)      No of AI driven decisions (due to confidence of understanding the underlying data that is used for the same)

8)      Percentage increase in the no of Data Champions/Advocates

9)      Percentage increase in no of employees joining data communities

10)   No of on-demand resources utilized by employees (online books, blogs, self-guided courses, data communities accessed, storyboard sessions presented and participated and more)

11)   Positive impact of various Data Governance metrics that are tracked.

Each organization will have a few baseline KPIs and some customized ones too. Measuring KPIs and displaying the same through dashboards and scorecards will help elevate the Data Literacy levels and the CDLO’s office will need to focus continuously on this area.

While the CDLO will be a new entry to the C-suite world, his/her role will evolve over time and may need a high degree of customization depending on the data management maturity, journey, challenges, and priorities. The CDLO will initially be a cost centre, like the CDO unit, but will have to mature into a profit centre by proactively helping in creating new products, improving the customer experience, making forays into new markets and more.  

It is imperative that enterprises need to consider and quickly integrate this new role within their data management structures. Increasing the Data Literacy levels will be the top priority of most organizations in the immediate future. And creating the structure and ownership for programs that will positively impact the literacy index will help organizations transform and thrive.



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