It doesn’t matter what you call it — an architect, designer, officer or translator. You need an executive-level data specialist if you want your company to survive the digital transformation.

Data is everywhere in today’s business world. Research shows 75 percent of enterprises have developed big data projects.1 This could be anything from gaining insights on customer service to finding the best place to launch a new brick-and-mortar location. Data projects themselves don’t ensure successful ventures. You need a leader who understands the data’s capabilities and who has the authority to take charge of them. That’s where the chief data office (CDO) comes in.

Before you denounce the role as just another body crowding the C-suite, consider this: Two-thirds of companies that have a CDO believe they’re outperforming their competitors, and twice as many have an actual strategy in place behind their data initiatives.2 That’s right: Data is nothing without strategy. And today, your business is nothing without data. Collecting data is one thing, but being able to gain actionable insights and put those insights to use is another. Here are a few ways the CDO can bring big value to your data projects.

They Bring Order to the Chaos

In the early days, CDOs focused mainly on structure and governance. In fact, it was rare to find a CDO outside the financial industry, because their value was seen mainly in compliance and regulatory affairs.

Fast forward to 2018, and CDOs are still bringing structure to the madness, but their mass of data is bigger, more diverse and choppier than ever before. Your company needs a way to sort, classify and find value in the vast amount of information available. The CDO can break down silo walls to work with other executives to determine goals for the organization that data can help achieve. They work to keep data clean and consistent, so it’s most useful to the departments that need it.

They’ll Help You Outperform the Competition

In the age of big data, most companies are dealing with big data messes — tons of information their teams are not equipped to process, much less maximize. By taking advantage of this lag in data learning, your company can gain a leg up on the competition. Still, you need to do it sooner rather than later. If you don’t adopt a CDO quick, you won’t just miss the opportunity, you’ll fall behind the curve.

They Turn Data Into Action

Depending on your culture, you may be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to utilizing data in today’s marketplace. Maybe your boss wants to do things how they’ve always been done or simply believes their idea is better than what the data suggests. In any case, your team needs an executive-level leader that your C-suite is willing to listen to. A CDO can build and communicate a strong business case for your data findings and turn those findings into action.

They Connect People

Silos don’t work in today’s digital economy — but that doesn’t mean they don’t still exist. The CDO can help bridge some of those silos through good communication and compelling storytelling. In some cases, they may even be able to shift the culture to be more passionate about data-based decision-making.

Data can be both a problem and an opportunity. Companies today can choose whether they let their data overwhelm, confuse and overpower them. Their data lake can become a swamp. Or they can choose whether they harness the power of data for their own company’s benefit. Knowing what I know about the changes still to come in this industry, I’d err on the side of being overly strategic about my company information.

If you think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in terms of data utilization, you know some companies are still just focusing on the food and water stage of data strategy development. A CDO can get you to the self-actualization phase, where your data is safe and secure, and you’re using it to its fullest potential to transform your business. Who doesn’t want to be there?

This post was brought to you by IBM Global Technology Services. For more content like this, visit IT Biz Advisor.

This article was first published on Converge.