When it comes to digital transformation, no one in the organization is under more pressure to succeed than the Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

But, what does success like look for a role that didn’t even exist a few years ago?

That’s exactly what researchers at MIT Technology Review set out to better understand in a recent paper titled How Leading CDOs Deliver Top and Bottom Line Results. In partnership with TIBCO, they looked at business analytics technology adoption trends worldwide, as well as the organizational and strategic impact of analytics in decision-making.

According to the study, the involvement of the CEO and C-Level Executives in making the use of data and analytics pervasive across the organization was the #1 success factor for high-performing companies.

In fact, the research suggests that the C-Suite is also instrumental in expanding the impact of big data and analytics beyond efficiency gains to areas like innovation and business development that drives growth in new markets.

The guiding principle: Make data central to every decision that the company makes.

Another area of great impact for CDOs was empowering team members with the authority to implement “analytics-driven change” within the organization. For example, GE Transportation enables “analytics champions” to not only be constantly aware of the decision-making process, but also what each decision maker needs to be successful. In many cases, this need is data.

“We have to ask, ‘Who is making the decision?’” says Landon Lockhart, Senior Director Data and Analytics at GE Transportation. “You must keep it simple, give them exactly what they need to make a good decision. And you have to track what they decided and if they deviated, and understand why.”

The MIT paper includes first-hand accounts on successes and lessons learned from CDOs from companies like Vodafone, DBS Bank, and Munich Re, and offers the latest tips for success, including:

  1. Recruit and Develop Talent According to the study, the combination of data science expertise with business acumen and communication skills is a “precious commodity” that CDOs need to hire and retain. Without the right team with the right skills, success is hard to come by.
  2. Harness Information and Technology Across the Organization Open architectures and common platforms are making data visible and accessible across all departments, while new solutions like predictive analytics carried out by artificial intelligence and machine learning are making it actionable to deliver real results.
  3. Make Data Part of Your Decision-Making DNA Cultural change is often required to make data part of every decision-making process across the organization. But where companies usually get it wrong is when this transformation is not happening at the top. When it comes to digital transformation success, the C-Suite needs to lead by example.

Want to learn more?

You can get the full MIT Technology Review paper here.