Over the past 30 years, most companies have added new C-level roles in response to changing business environments. The chief financial officer (CFO) role, which didn’t exist at a majority of companies in the mid-1980s, rose to prominence as pressures for value management and more transparent investor relations gained traction. Adding a chief marketing officer (CMO) became crucial as new channels and media raised the complexity of brand building and customer engagement. Chief strategy officers (CSOs) joined top teams to help companies address increasingly complex and fast-changing global markets.

Today, the power of data and analytics is profoundly altering the business landscape, and once again companies may need more top-management muscle. Capturing data-related opportunities to improve revenues, boost productivity, and, sometimes, create entirely new businesses puts new demands on companies—requiring not only new talent and investments in information infrastructure but also significant changes in mind-sets and frontline training. It’s becoming apparent that without extra executive horsepower, stoking the momentum of data analytics will be difficult for many organizations.

Because the new horizons available to companies typically span a wide range of functions, including marketing, risk, and operations, the C-suite can evolve in a variety of ways. In some cases, the solution will be to enhance the mandate of the chief information, marketing, strategy, or risk officer. Other companies may need new roles, such as a chief data officer, chief technical officer, or chief analytics officer, to head up centers of analytics excellence. Daunting as it may seem to rethink top-management roles and responsibilities, failing to do so, given the cross-cutting nature of many data-related opportunities, could well mean jeopardizing top- or bottom-line growth and opening the door to new competitors.

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