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By Pedro Khoury-Diaz
Across all industries, Chief Data Officers (CDOs) have one thing in common: short tenures. According to a recent Gartner Survey, the average CDO tenure is 2 ½ years. But tenures could be longer if we evaluate the role and pivot the view on specific responsibilities to improve measurable results. The two most common reasons for turnover on the role are 1) unclear expectations from senior leadership and 2) difficulty understanding on how the CDO can add value. Note that these are not new issues. For example, when Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) were first hired decades ago, boardrooms were also disoriented by their presence. Once results became measurable, the dilemma dissolved. In that spirit, we recommend six steps CDOs can take to clarify performance management metrics, communicate value-adding plans and results to senior leaders, and turbocharge data excellence in their enterprise.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) cited a poorly defined job description as one of the reasons CDOs struggle with their roles and responsibilities. Therefore, if the job description is unclear, the CDO can add value by further defining their roles. Responsibilities should not overlap with other technology roles (Chief Information Officer (CIOs), CTOs, Chief Enterprise Architect, and others.). A primary focus of the CDO is responding to an organization’s need to have answers to high-priority, mission, or critical business-related questions.
In general, we advise:
CDOs are encouraged to redefine their role and responsibilities around the organization’s business mission and broaden their knowledge in regard to the capability offering within their organization.
While refining their role, CDOs can increase their influence and create alliances by making departmental partnerships. With a focus on the business components, the CDO can access and measure areas where a significant impact could be realized, based on the enterprise’s priority driving questions. Organizational collaborations would drive the enterprise’s mission and provide value to the bottom line.
Take one step at a time and develop partnerships by doing the following:
These steps add value to the CDO and the enterprise.
A data evangelist is someone who inspires and converts an audience to your mission or purpose. The CDO needs to advocate, encourage, and speak to audiences about their organization’s data strategy and approach because it’s a competitive marketplace (and recruitment of the best talent never stops). To implement your data strategy, carve out a niche in the industry that will assist you in attracting the most capable talent.
The Office of the CDO needs talent in various areas, including data strategy, data management, data engineering, data scientist, and data modeling. These are tough roles to fill for the largest enterprises in our current hiring climate. If you’re a smaller firm, that challenge is even steeper. Completing these steps will increase the visibility of the CDO and its programs.
The CDO should:
Data visibility can provide an enterprise with an eagle eye view of its data systems, platforms, assets, and metadata, thereby creating a data map, or an imprint, of where all data resides. We recommend using an application that can describe the current data ecosystem. Alternatively, a more powerful tool to improve data visibility is to establish a data mapping service using Informatica PowerCenter, IBM Infosphere Data Stage, or the MuleSoft Integration Platform. The advantage of these services is that they integrate data across multiple systems and allow you to view and understand the data assets.
This ability assumes metadata standards are applied across the board. At a minimum, this platform service should provide you with an understanding of the data in your enterprise. At best, these abilities will allow you to answer mission-critical questions about the data ecosystem.
To begin a data visibility initiative:
Open Data is often misunderstood. The advantage of having Open Data is that you can create a feedback loop.
This is a space where users can share their data results with you and reprioritize Open Data outcomes. For example, if you have limited resources and a dataset with non-trivial information, release it (using the appropriate security precautions). You can view examples of open data on catalog.data.gov and data.world.
There lies the potential for academics, non-profits, or other institutions to experiment on data and provide you with outcomes at no cost. If done correctly, this can be a win-win for all parties. But, and more importantly, it can be a win for the CDO without requiring a large level of effort.
Supporting a data platform is at the center of the CDO’s role. A data platform is a tool that allows data to be collected, transformed, unified, and delivered to users, applications, or for other business intelligence purposes like running recommendation engines. Make this responsibility actionable and in-part business-centric. Provide users with media, understand their business use case, and collect outputs as they are developed.
At a minimum, the CDO should provide best practices to system engineers and developers with requirements of how to make the best data platform for their systems. Enhance its data mapping capabilities, but ideally the CDO should enhance and build on an enterprise data sharing platform.
The CDO position is complex and challenging. There are incredibly high expectations because of the need to bring solutions and solve enterprise-specific data problems. Conversely, expectations are unclear as there are no CDO industry track records, and professional capabilities vary. The underlying issue is that enterprises need to improve data management and data visibility, develop better business intelligence, and make evidence-based decisions using data. How we get there might look different, but the needs are constant and expanding.
Lastly, the CDO is a new field, so don’t set yourself to established norms. You can forge your future by doing things your way. Take the relevant information and keep pushing your incentives forward in the enterprise. Ultimately, if all goes well, this will lead to longer tenure in your role as CDO.
Need help understanding the progress your office has made to date? Use FI Consulting’s CDO RACI Chart to track and monitor your progress.
Whether you are new to the Chief Data Officer role or you are trying to increase the actionable intelligence of your organization, FI Consulting is ready to help.