The chief data officer (CDO) is a new role that has been emerging over the last few years. It sprung into life with businesses realising that every business needs to utilise data to succeed in the age of digital transformation. We have spent the last few years thinking about data culture in organisations and how to enable change to utilise organisational data assets and dark data. There is difficulty in the business change process and the CDO role has seen various iterations, adapting to find its place.
As we have seen, data is core to every business and there is opportunity within business to grow and introduce efficiencies by nurturing data as an asset. The CDO is the champion for data within the business and the voice that always thinks about using data as a strategic asset. Data can be utilised intelligently in advanced analytics to create new business opportunity and increase efficiency.
Cross business team utilisation of data requires a change in culture from hording data to making it assessable and advertising in the business what assets there are. CDOs require budget to be successful and must be able to influence enterprise change. There are restrictions of regulation and compliance that must be adhered to, but the CDO needs to be disruptive and drive innovation through the business.
The role is still evolving and a blueprint is becoming more established. Having a passion for data and storytelling with data is such an envisioning experience for growth. Erudite CDOs have a passion for exploration of data, just as data scientists do, to find that truth and evangelize the possibilities of data value and find that business opportunity. To enable data within the business to reach its potential use there are some foundations that need to be in place, such as data governance.
Thus a CDO should:
- Understand the data context
- Collaborate with business and IT
- Create a data strategy with best practices on managing data, standards for data sharing, policies and procedures across the entire data lifecycle and identify that data value
- Establish data governance operating models and sit on the data governance council
- Oversee architecture best practices to review the impact of infrastructure change
- Reduce barriers to data accessibility
- Drive a data quality vision
- Support operational efforts with strategic oversight
- Be aware of legislation relating to data oversight
- Data never stops being created and the ongoing role requires evangelizing, finding business value and adapting to changes of use with continuous small steps
- Be a data driven culture leader
- Lead data literacy improvement to help with the data culture adoption.
- Work with IT and the business
- Always know the current state of data maturity
- A CDO needs technical and business acumen
- Lead data transformation projects
- Operationalise data usage
It is not only large corporations that require CDOs. Hiring a CDO for SMEs is a challenge, but will be instrumental in enhancing business value and making sure the data that is used provides that much needed business innovation.
The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook, Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson, second edition (2021)
The CDO Journey, Insights and advice for data leaders, Peter Aiken, Todd Harbour, Kathy Walter, Ed Kelly, and Burt Walsh (2020)
World Economic Forum: 6 data policy issues experts are tracking right now