3 Proven Techniques for Successful CDOs

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Having attended over 10 Chief Data Officer (CDO) events all over the world in the past twelve-months, it’s remarkable how many new things you can learn at each event; every single CDO’s story is slightly different and all have their own unique insights to offer.

Last month, at the IBM CDO Summit, Fall in Boston, over 150 senior-level data leaders, including 80 CDOs, from 31 different industries, came together to share their experiences, challenges and innovations on their respective data journeys. With 2 days full of discussion, debate and networking, it’s fair to say that there were plenty of lessons learned and useful takeaways for all of the delegates.

However, for me personally, three particular ideas stood out as being particularly pertinent, especially for those of you looking to take even greater strides in your data strategy in 2016.

1)    Begin your job before your first day.

In his international best-selling book, The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins advises leaders that the first 90 days begins the moment you are under consideration for a position. During a Panel Discussion between CDOs from GSK, Time Inc., American Fidelity and Citizens Bank, this view was echoed by a CDO – secure your mandate and agree on your roadmap before you accept the job.

The role of the CDO is difficult enough without having sufficient private and public support from your direct report. Such support can be the difference between success and failure. Therefore, if, for example, you wish to have full access to any data silo within your organisation or you need to hire a certain number (or type) of team members, secure that guarantee before you take the job. Secure it in writing too. One CDO spoke about his signed piece of paper from the CEO, which granted him access to any organisational data he needed.

If you cannot secure these guarantees or the mandate to operate is deemed inappropriate, then do not take the role.

2)    First and foremost, utilise your network.

The data and analytics skills shortage has been much-written about in 2015 but, as one CDO suggested, don’t underestimate the power of your network. Throughout your career, you will have built up excellent relationships with exceptional talents.

Instead of relying on recruiters or job ads, use these strong relationships and your ability to sell (a key skill in the data and analytics world) to convince your peers and former colleagues to buy-in to the work you are doing in your current role and the journey you are taking.

You’re far more likely to convince an old colleague, who knows you well and the work you produce, than a graduate with less experience but a wealth of job offers. Bringing in your own people can also be a great way to establish your position early and enable you to hit the ground running.

3)    Empower your CMO. Empower your organisation.

Only 2 CDOs in attendance in Boston reported to their CMO; however, despite this low proportion, a Panel Discussion between CMOs from CenturyLink and TE Connectivity and Charles Schwab’s CDO (one of the 2) revealed that the CDO, or equivalent function, is perfectly positioned to empower the CMO and help them meet the challenges they face in their role.

The explosion of available data sources and consumer touch points means that the CDO is equipped to provide greater customer understanding to their marketing counterparts and, moreover, help to assess the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.

With fierce competition in so many industries now, targeted and successful marketing campaigns are key to ensuring new business, customer satisfaction, upsell and retention. The CDO, as a C-Suite peer of the CMO, can help to ensure this happens.

As CenturyLink’s CMO put it, ‘If I’m second or third, I’m way behind’. The CDO can, in part, ensure that you remain first.

By Adam Plom:

Adam Plom is the Global Head of Content for the CDO Forum. Adam has organised numerous CDO Forums in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia and recently featured in a Financier Worldwide magazine interview, titled: The Evolution of the CDO, as well as co-authoring The Chief Data Officer Forum Review. For enquiries, email: [email protected].

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  1. Unknown says:

    The CDO is most successful when he/she is breaking down the silos across the organization and achieving the objectives of the organization across functions. While the collaboration with the CMO is highly important and can assist in finding opportunities to improve targeting, lead conversion and more, understanding the relationships that sit in the data across the enterprise can support the CPO, CSO and CFO.

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