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Is hiring a CDO the only way to ensure data change?

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20th Nov 2015
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If your organisation is intent on transforming its use of data, how important is hiring a Chief Data Officer (CDO)?

According to Forrester research conducted earlier in the year, CDOs exist in 45% of all big businesses and governments across the globe.

And such is the rapid evolution of the role that a new study from Experian Data Quality says CDOs now regularly sit at the heart of change management and transformation programmes, reporting directly to the CEO in 70% of cases.

The Rise of the Data Force report found that, while the early blueprint of a CDO was to smooth out the relationship between CIOs and CMOs, the sheer number of big businesses in need of transforming their use of data has led to CDOs fast becoming the spearhead for broader organisational change programmes.  

“What seems to be critical to a CDO’s success is the combination of change management and communication skills,” says Boris Huard, managing director of Experian Data Quality UK. “[This is]  tied in with the ability to identify a progressive roadmap that influences not only short-term improvement in data quality, but also enables evolution and disruption of business models.

“There’s no doubt that the industry is moving forward at pace, and there is apparently no need for anyone to evangelise about the importance of data at boardroom level, everyone gets it. CDOs have an exciting role to play to shape the future of their organisation, with rapidly advancing technology and digitalisation making  the appointment of a “Data Tsar”, in some form or another, absolutely essential.”

Experian says technical skills are no longer considered important by 94% of organisations involved in its CDO study, and that the CDO role itself is regularly being recruited from a variety of industry backgrounds.

It also states that the adoption of cloud-based solutions has shifted focus away from IT and architecture to data migration and change management, and that therefore the CDOs must translate data into value for the business and “weave it into the fabric of an organisation”.

The report asked some of the most high-profile CDOs in the UK to provide a view of what they themselves felt was underpinned success in their role:

“The CDO needs to be technically aware to avoid relying on others to understand the architecture that is being delivered to support your requirement. This understanding helps the CDO have more tactical conversations,” said Hany Choueiri, CDO, Bank of England.

“The role of the CDO is to use data to drive value across the business, working transversally to embed this. It’s how the CDO wires data into the business to create value - I think that’s the key to unlocking data and making it work,” said Steve Sacks, Chief Customer Officer, Burberry.

“The CDO must have the hierarchical clout required to drive change and encourage people to adopt a data-driven approach," addded Lt. Col Michael Servaes, CDO, Ministry of Defence.  

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