Data is becoming increasingly important to businesses, and as a result, the chief data officer (CDO) role is becoming more prevalent. The CDO oversees data within an organization and ensures that it is used effectively to drive business growth and decision-making. This involves working closely with different departments to identify and implement data-driven strategies and manage data quality and security. In this article, we will explore the role of the CDO in more detail, discuss the skills, and outline x qualities every professional CDO must possess in an ever-growing world.
QUALITY 1: Navigating a Changing Landscape
CDOs planning to do nothing but a data lake project for the rest of the year will have a rude awakening — they’ll quickly turn their team into a cost center that provides no value to the business.
Older AI models must be constantly recalibrated as the economy moves through different phases of reopening. CDOs need to look toward augmented intelligence that involves a closer collaboration between people and AI to learn and react faster than competitors.
QUALITY 2: Providing a Better Roadmap by Applying Analytics
The constantly changing situation around COVID-19 will also drive chief data officer trends around understanding the business environment. CDOs are business thinkers who can provide organizational roadmaps that allow companies to compete in the new economy using data, AI, machine learning, information security, and well-trained data scientists.
CDOs must find ways to bring different analytics into the enterprise to improve internal processes, create new products and prioritize the best current opportunities.
QUALITY 3: Focus on Automation and Competitive Differentiation
Some experts believe the CDO will morph into a more focused role in finding ways to automate various aspects of the business. Organizations need C-level leadership to compete in an era where companies must pivot to everything digital. This requires enterprises to either redirect CIOs to be more business-focused or create a new strategic role — typically a chief automation officer (CAO) — to be the catalyst for driving the roadmap for data and automation.
A few years ago, CDOs heavily focused on data governance and management of packaged analytics software. They increasingly emphasize innovative data science pilots who could increase competitive differentiation, often in a company’s product. Many CDOs have data partnership teams, even in non-tech companies.
QUALITY 4: Be Relevant, Modern, and Updated.
New data governance regulations are driving CDOs to understand different types of data and their location. As a result, the CDO is best positioned to ensure an organization fully understands its data sources, how it’s handled, why it is dealt with, and what boundaries and limitations exist.
Current-day businesses depend a lot on data to ensure high performance and success. As a result, today’s business leaders seek a unified 360-degree view of their data — a single screen to assess and evaluate their operations. Whether it is data on business performance and shareholder value for the CEO, financial planning and reporting for the CFO, brand and market share for the CMO, or employee data for the Chief HR Officer. And that may be why they value Chief Data Officers.
There was a time when data was perceived as a back-office function. However, data has become the front and center of business strategy in the past few years. Considering this, Chief Data Officers must design data strategies that align with business objectives. And they need to get the organization to agree on data modernization to leverage cloud-based consolidation.
QUALITY 5: Treating Data as an Opportunity
CDOs must find ways to balance data opportunities with data liabilities. If organizations don’t use data responsibly, there will continue to be data breaches that impact consumers, and there are longer-term impacts on overall enterprise value and business reputation. GDPR and CCPA have created a need for CDOs to implement processes to determine what PII is in the mounds of data within an enterprise. They also need to train employees on privacy regulations and implement procedures for compliance with data privacy laws.
GDPR and CCPA accentuated the need for CDOs to focus on limiting the potential downsides of data. However, COVID-19 and the resulting economic pressure are driving CDOs to focus on the potential of using data opportunistically. This could affect the qualities boards look for as they bring on new candidates. In addition, CDOs may have legal backgrounds due to many CEOs seeing data as a liability instead of business backgrounds to support growth strategies.
Analytics-first thinkers are opportunistic with data. Up-sell and cross-sell models are created by looking at what customers have purchased in the past and creating look-alike customers for whom limited data exists. This often means collecting, storing, and processing personally identifiable information (PII).