5 things chief data officers should do in their first 100 days

By 2019, 90% of large organisations will have a chief data officer (CDO), yet only half of them will be hailed a success.

Starting any new job is a challenge, but when your role is brand new to an organisation, it becomes even more of one.

The first 100 days will constitute a ‘honeymoon’ period. It is within this all-too-brief period, however, that CDOs really need to establish themselves and create basic perceptions that others will associate with your subsequent ideas and actions.

Making a good first impression has never been more important, and having a clearly phased plan of attack becomes critical.

In 2014, there were 400 CDOs globally. A further 600 CDO roles were created in 2015.

>See also: 90% of large organisations will have a chief data officer by 2019 – Gartner

The CDOs that we have spoken to have told us that the communication, coordination and change management aspects of their jobs are vital to their success.

They are in a fairly unique position – often the first ever CDO in the company – so they have to work hard to give the role definition and credibility while also coaching colleagues around them on how data can support them in reaching business goals.

Here are five things a new CDO can do to set themselves up for continuing success.

1. Prepare

Getting ahead of the game is essential. As a CDO, you can’t afford to overlook the basics in terms of learning about the company. Looking at past financial reports, press releases and even studying hiring trends on job sites can help.

Many of the CDOs we spoke to set up meetings with their future teams and the key business and IT leaders at the new company in advance of their start date. They also prepared introductory materials about themselves ahead of time, including their previous experience.

They ensure they are ready to share their initial thoughts on joining the organisation. Drafting some first-day communications before they even step through the front door can help the CDO get ahead.

2. Assess

A new CDO must use face-to-face meetings to build a strong understanding of the business and rapport with key people. They will need to devote at least 50% of the time to meeting key business stakeholders to explain the CDO role and how it can help them meet their business-critical objectives. While it may seem like a huge time investment upfront, the benefits will stretch long into their tenure.

It will be tempting to cover as many areas as possible in those first meetings but a list of no more than five thoughtful questions will be more instructive. They need to pay close attention to chronic pain points and previous failures while actively soliciting honest feedback on perceptions of the CDO role. Without this assessment phase, CDOs cannot expect to drive results quickly.

3. Plan

The plan phase turns what has been gathered previously into an area of focus and a blueprint for action. CDOs can take the chance to share a programme vision with their team, line managers and the business’ key stakeholders.

This can be supported by an assessment of where the organisation currently is against the vision, and a list of new projects that they will use to close this gap.

4. Act

Moving past the 30-day mark, the time has come for implementation and action. The next step is meeting with the operational teams to define their workload and consider what the performance metrics and indicators.

As a new colleague, the CDO has to roll up their sleeves and ask what they can do to help the team succeed and behave like a trusted partner.

In all the meetings the CDO is likely to have in the first 100 days, conducting senior management status meetings to determine quarterly schedules will be some of the most valuable.

The key will be to keep the agenda simple. What did you say you were going to do during this period? What did you do? What was the business value? And what business value would the executive team like you to deliver during the next period?

The executive team will determine how to integrate the CDOs needs into their strategy and must give clearly defined expectations on what constitutes success. The CDO will then have a clear mission and structure for future meetings.

5. Measure

A CDO needs to continually articulate the business value of their project teams’ efforts, so regular progress report meetings are essential. Keeping audience in mind, it is important for them to focus on the information that they feel will be most relevant to the wider business and finance leaders.

With their first 100 days nearing completion, the CDO will enter another cycle of meetings with managers, teams and key stakeholders days to assess their first quarter and articulate their second.

A status report highlighting early wins, successes and challenges will ensure they enter the next 100 on a successful path.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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