So You Think You Want to be a Chief Data Officer? | MicroStrategy
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So You Think You Want to be a Chief Data Officer?

According to Gartner, 90% of enterprise organizations will have a Chief Data Officer by the end of 2019. For organizations focused on digital transformation initiatives, that’s good news. The bad news? Gartner also predicts that by the end of 2019, only half of those CDOs will be successful.

There’s a lot that goes into the CDO role today. Depending on your background and experience, you may need to invest some time developing extra skill sets to succeed.

First, let’s take a look at the role. Today’s CDO stands at the crossroads of IT and business, typically responsible for defining the data and analytics strategy for his or her organization. This has implications for IT teams that manage enterprise data as an asset, breaking down siloed data stores and databases, making information easier to find and use by all, and delivering the means to transform a growing deluge of data into consumable and collaborative insights.

Issues related to data governance, data quality, and regulatory drivers also represent formidable forces to address in the way technology is deployed. A CDO must be in tune with the these issues to create and support the deployment of a viable data strategy.

On the business side, the role requires leadership and team building skills, as CDOs should serve as the chief change agent for advancing a data-driven culture. The CDO should serve as a strategist, evangelist, and moderator able to negotiate between results-hungry, data-craving executives and IT.

A CDO role provides the opportunity to drive new value and revenue for an organization, while simultaneously delivering cost savings. Gartner estimates that 80% of successful CDOs will have value creation or revenue generation as their first priority through 2021, up from less than 50% in 2016. You might be getting the picture now on why Gartner predicts that only half of Chief Data Officers will succeed.

So, as the Chief Human Resources Officer of an enterprise analytics company, what are my recommendations to aspiring or current CDOs looking to land in the successful 50%?


If Your Strength Lies in Data Science

If your strength lies in data science, your statistical acumen can certainly serve you well, and likely has enabled you to create insights to answer the toughest questions that a business can generate. You need to focus on honing your business acumen to clearly understand what questions your business is trying to answer, as well as the ones it should be asking. You need the communication skills to clearly interpret and convey the insights that can come from sophisticated data analyses, putting information into people’s hands in a way that’s accessible to them.

You also need team building skills. You’ll be dealing with incredibly smart people both with and without organizational political power, and need to work across the aisles to advance a focus on business value without getting stuck in the quagmire of workplace politics. Understanding enterprise analytics technology, the issues that IT organizations deal with in deploying such technology, and how to best support IT colleagues bringing a data strategy to life is critical.


If Your Experience Lies in IT

If your strength is related to a strong IT background, you have some of the critical skills and experience to do this role. You’re likely infrastructure-focused. You know how information flows. You know, understand, and can recommend and implement technology to democratize and operationalize data, improve security, and make processes and moving from data to decisions more efficient and effective.

However, you may need to hone your soft skills, such as empathy and negotiating, to understand the user experience and why people want the things (and data and insights) they do—and be able to tell them no if they can’t have them.


If Your Background is in Business

If you’re coming in to the role with a background in consulting and answering business questions, you likely have internal or external consulting experience doing strategy-related work. You know what questions executives want answered and how they like their data. If you want to be a Chief Data Officer, you should look for great enterprise projects to work on that give you a broad focus, experience working with IT teams on data issues, and develop a strong, practical understanding of how enterprise analytics come to life and differs from departmental analytics.

Do you want to be a Chief Data Officer? Make sure you know the expanded expectations for today’s CDO—and come prepared.

Want to know what Constellation Research Founder and Disrupting Digital Business author Ray Wang thinks about the role of the Chief Data Officer? Get this Global 2000 adviser’s insights and advice in The Role of Data in Digital Transformation, a new 18-page Q & A-style eBook.

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