How Chief Data Officers can generate and show value


Long-time readers of my blog will know that I’m a great advocate for the Chief Data Officer (CDO) role – and in the right context. This is even more so the case in companies where the CIO has more of a technology focus than a data-oriented one. I was therefore understandably excited by this Harvard Business Review (HBR) article which illustrates how the CDO can demonstrate value inside the organisation.

The article has an interesting split between those businesses who are mature in their analytical and data management journey, and a more generic approach that can be applied to most companies. Even though the CDO position was established more than two decades ago, many organisations still seem to battle to motivate and establish the role effectively. Perhaps those businesses should use some of the value demonstration approaches highlighted in the article as a business case for the role.

Delivering value

The article states that in those companies with lower levels of maturity, one should focus on a few key projects of value. I would add that these should be small projects in terms of resource costs and timelines, but high in business impact. Invariably, every organisation has burning questions that must be addressed. Data can clearly illustrate value by helping answer those questions.

On a practical level, this means addressing the demand for data as well as the supply of key insights. With modern cloud-based solutions this can be achieved very cost effectively. Using good analysis and visualisation-supported storytelling, the business value can also be illustrated. This is a very good approach for a manager in the Business Intelligence space to demonstrate value and grow the position towards that of a CDO.

The article also points out that building good relationships with key stakeholders in the business who already understand the value of data is important. These are the people who want to get the insights from the available data that can assist them to run their part of the business better.

Positioning the CDO

Helping matters is the fact that data is an invaluable asset today. Leaders realise they must harness the power of data. However, this requires a well thought out and clearly defined strategy. Should a business lack this, the CDO role will be of little value.

Moreover, any company that feels ready for this role must move beyond thinking it is purely a technology position. A CDO must have the opportunity to show their technical know-how about the data while also leveraging soft skills to translate this into valuable insights that will positively impact business strategy.

Governance matters

The HBR article explores how those CDOs in more mature data-oriented companies regard data governance as a top priority. However, I don’t think data governance should be put on the back burner if the organisation is immature in its data management and embracement of analytics. In fact, I think a young or budding CDO can use bottom-up data governance approaches (if they are unable to get top-down endorsement) to also show value in that space.

Any executive would listen and be convinced of the value of data governance if they hear a story along the lines of “We corrected n-thousand erroneous contact records, and as a result or marketing campaign was x% more successful, which led to an y% increase in clients, members, or subscribers.” If x and y are significant numbers, that business case alone almost justifies the existence of a CDO role, especially if the story is concluded with a carrot like: “imagine if we can predict how we can reduce our terminations/lapses of profitable customers!

Cloud benefit

As I eluded above, some of this requires access to advanced technology. For example, a cloud data warehouse, and some master data management, or data governance tools, all coupled with really informative visualisations. However, all those technologies can be ‘rented’ in the cloud to illustrate their value before the organisation needs to make a massive commitment to either the role or the technology.

But if the business case is justifiable, then both the technology and the role of the CDO could be given the go-ahead.

Leave a Reply

hope howell has twice the fun. Learn More Here anybunny videos