Chief Data Officers are worth their weight in gold. How can you find a good one?
It has become increasingly apparent over the last few years just how fundamental data and analytics is to business success. As a result, the demand for data leaders within a company to drive and spearhead its data strategy has intensified.
For the most forward-thinking companies, that means hiring a Chief Data Officer (CDO). From data governance and compliance to influencing overall business strategy, the CDO is an expert and specialist in translating and delivering real value from data.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 65% of companies now have a permanent CDO in place, rising from 12% just under a decade ago in 2012.
Despite this, there is still a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the CDO role, specifically in terms of defining exactly what it covers and how it is perceived by others. MIT Sloan research suggests that the CDO is properly established in less than a third (30%) of organisations.
But why is that? In order to find out, we surveyed 250 active CDOs from across the UK, the US and Germany to provide clarity around this newly established role and to offer organisations with practical advice on how they can make their CDO hires a success.
Getting to grips with the CDO role
The CDO is responsible for leading and building a data strategy that supports the wider business strategy and objectives.
“The chief data officer needs to demonstrate the value of data, treating data as an asset, building data literacy and making sure better decisions are being made due to better insight and intelligence,” said Abel Aboh, Data Management Lead at the Bank of England and a participant at the CDO Summer School run by data expert Caroline Carruthers and myself.
The CDOs that get this right can produce remarkable results. Moreover, according to research from Gartner, “They are also 2.3 times more likely to be effective at reducing time to market and 3.5 times more likely to be effective at data monetisation.”
However, as Abel points out, getting to this point isn’t always easy: “You’ve got to have a bit of maturity in an organisation…if not, then you can see the passion of the CDO go out of the window — and they will ultimately leave.”
This is due to a handful of common pitfalls:
Considering all of these challenges, it’s perhaps not surprising that CDOs have incredibly short tenures. 1 in 5 (17%) of the CDOs we spoke to have only lasted one or two years, the majority (30%) between three and five years, and just a quarter (24%) stayed over five years. Some research suggests this is far lower than other C-suite roles.
Overcoming the barriers: top tips on making CDO hires a success
That said, there are ways organisations can overcome these problems and enable CDOs to flourish in their roles. Here are my top tips:
Considering the incredible potential value that data holds for businesses today, brave data leadership is now more important than ever. At a time when data-driven companies consistently outperform their peers, a strong CDO can make the difference between success and failure.
But even the very best CDOs cannot perform if they are held back by challenges. The solution is to talk and be open to change. Regular, honest dialogue between CDOs and their employers, or future employers, is crucial to ensure the right measures are in place that enable them to do the best job they can and unleash the full potential of data and analytics within an organisation.
Peter Jackson is Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Exasol.
Demystifying The CDO: How To Make Hiring A Data Leader A Success