The role of CDOs: a more strategic approach to data and digital transformation

Demands on Chief Data Officers (CDOs) are growing. Data is now an in-demand commodity. But while most realise its value, a lot of businesses still don’t understand how to use it to get tangible results – be it financial growth, improved engagement or more accurate insight. This is where the role of CDOs enters the story, to deliver ROI on data.

The task to define and find value now falls under the role of CDOs. He or she is required to not only find the right technical data solution, but to take a more strategic role within the business – to seek new business value from data as well as guide digital transformation. It’s a tall demand, and requires a fundamental shift in responsibility away for an area that has traditionally sat firmly with IT.

So, how can data professionals make this shift and start showing ROI on data investments?

Gartner’s chief data officer survey: Be the centre of gravity not control

For CDOs to be successful, “it’s about being the centre of gravity and not control,” suggests Gartner’s chief data officer survey.

The most important skill for the role of CDOs: Communication

Translating something as intangible as data into a physical business opportunity is incredibly difficult. We recommend that you start discussing data from a perspective everyone can understand, by framing it as a business asset.

Make sure the value is identified; understand what drives the most value in the company and then identify what data points isolate that event. Let’s think about retail. If we ask,” where’s the money?” we know it’s with the consumer who goes into the store or website and hopefully becomes a customer. What is it that drives the revenue of a store? Having the right products on the right shelf at the right time. Then packaging it up with the best possible customer experience. Success in this process is a matter of being able to convert a visit to an actual purchase. As a CDO, you must think of the data points needed to improve that conversion.

Communicating an enterprise-wide data vision to your colleagues is, as you know, likely to be fraught with resistance and challenges. To get support for your data projects and drive a data-led culture, you’ll need to learn how to navigate through these obstacles.

No. 1 challenge for getting projects off the ground was, in fact, getting board-level buy-in.

The role of CDOs: To gain board-level buy-in, education comes first

Despite the growing enthusiasm for emerging data concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, getting the board to buy into and invest in data initiatives continues to be a barrier for many CDOs. There remains a disconnect between the desire to embrace data as a business asset and a willingness to invest the time and resources – not just funds – needed to make it happen.

At a recent event in Amsterdam, we asked an audience of CDOs the question: ”Is board-level buy-in to your data projects improving?” Three quarters admitted the No. 1 challenge for getting projects off the ground was, in fact, getting board-level buy-in.

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The role of CDOs: Selling data in data initiatives

The key to addressing the education requirement needed to secure board-level buy-in is the way you sell your proposals and initiatives.

It’s not just a case of sharing a grand vision for how data will be used. It needs to clearly state what the outcome will be as a result.

A business using data successfully will have data connected and flowing through every department. If a you can frame the benefits of your initiatives to address the needs and challenges of each department, you will face less resistance.

Some organisations may be inspired by changes they see in other companies, leading them to think, ‘we need to do this as well.”

‘But that is the wrong way of looking at it. You must ask yourself: what is the problem we are trying to solve? What challenges are we facing today? Is it getting to market faster? Is it reducing the cost of ideation? Is it reducing the time it takes to create products and deliver services? Invariably it comes back to data and how we’re managing it, which could potentially become how you solve it.

Data should fundamentally change a business’ mindset and influence decision making. For the CDO to be successful, they need to further create those scenarios where the consumption of data gives better decisions. If you’re in retail, it gives better conversions. If you’re in manufacturing, it gives you predictability or speed-to-market. There are a number of scenarios where data can allow for better decisions, faster.

The role of CDOs: Developing a data culture

A vital part of successful adoption of your data vision is the development of a data culture. This is a continuation of the sell-in exercise and closes the loop between data vision from the top and data engagement through the business.

Also see: Lloyd’s of London’s former CDO discusses her role

If we were to give one piece of advice for how to form a strong data culture, it would be to make sure that value is identified from the outset – understand what drives the most value in the company and then identify what data points isolate that event.

The role of CDOs: Better insights lead to better understanding

Data is a valuable resource, but only if it’s processed and managed effectively. Disparate or incomplete data will create knowledge gaps when it comes to understanding the needs of each customer – and this in turn will have a costly impact.

Organised data sets give the competitive advantage of delivering clear, uncluttered and comprehensive insights, allowing you to make quick business decisions with a greater chance of a successful outcome.

Sound data management practices offer a real competitive edge – but they need to be well communicated and bought into across the business.

Those organisations that have set themselves apart are those which understand their customers better than anyone and are able to deliver a personalised experience because of it.

It’s not just about product data, customer data, supplier data or any other master data. It’s about gaining that multidomain perspective that leads to well rounded, and actionable, insights.

The role of CDOs: Taking control with MDM

Control is vital. Laying the foundations of a strong data culture requires leadership, guidance and communication to effectively mould your business’ mindset. But it also needs a reliable data system that everyone can use and benefit from.

Master data management solutions can be the lynchpin in your data culture; incorporated with solid communication and a clear, tailored initiative, they can drive data culture forwards, change opinions and transform your business by providing a central data source that can be accessed throughout your organisation.

Delivering on the above will take a proven, flexible solution. As well as a provider experienced working with CDOs to proactively lead their organizations to data-driven success.

Author Bios

Niels Stenfeldt joined Stibo Systems as the chief executive officer in 2018. Niels brings more than 15 years of experience serving in global leadership positions, successfully driving growth and operational excellence at some of the world’s largest software companies, including Danaher, OpenText, SAP and Oracle.

Christian Oertzen joined Stibo Systems as President, EMEA in 2018. Christian is leveraging his 25+ years of experience from global companies such as Salesforce, Avaya and Dell EMC to further drive business value for Stibo Systems’ customers and partners across Europe.

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