5 Fundamentals for Success as Chief Data Officer

by   |   June 24, 2016 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

Ashley Stirrup, CMO, Talend

Ashley Stirrup, CMO, Talend

In today’s data-driven “age of the customer,” a new C-level role is starting to pop up in companies across all industries: the Chief Data Officer (CDO). This position arises from the deluge of data that is available to businesses today thanks to technological advancements in the areas of data integration and analysis.

In order to stay competitive, companies need not only to capture as much data as possible, but also to use the information strategically to inform business strategy and company direction. The CDO is tasked with overseeing and directing the business in ingesting, analyzing, and using data – no small task.

When it comes to the ways a CDO can go about taking this on, the possibilities are endless. While the particulars of a sound data strategy vary by company, there are a few fundamentals that a CDO must follow in order to be effective:


Define your Role and Objectives

The role of a Chief Data Officer is important for all industries and company sizes. Awareness is growing of the value of data and the importance of utilizing this asset to improve business results. The role of the CDO varies significantly across organizations, depending on the organization’s needs. In order for CDOs to ensure that they are driving results that are valuable for the business, they must define specific objectives so that they are clear from the start about what they want to accomplish and how it will help increase the company’s success.

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Gartner’s 2016 report on the CDO indicates that there is currently a lack of meaningful metrics to measure the effectiveness of the role. By establishing clear metrics against their goals from the beginning, CDOs can avoid ambiguity on their deliverables and position themselves as someone who is delivering clear business value. 

Connect Departments across the Organization

In the age of big data, all businesses need to rethink their organizational structures to ensure data is flowing efficiently throughout the business and driving optimal results across departments. Improving data management and governance, expanding the use of data throughout the organization, and ensuring insights are turned into actions and results are all essential objectives. According to a Forrester report, companies with CDOs are more likely to ensure compliance, reduce risks, and increase business agility than those without a CDO. An effective CDO must lead the charge when it comes to empowering cross-functional teams, overcoming silos, and mitigating any power struggles between data owners, data managers, CEOs, and CMOs. Too many organizations lack data-savvy leadership in each department – a successful CDO must stitch it all together.

Develop a Data Roadmap

Despite overwhelming adoption of data-oriented initiatives – from investing in self-service analytics to expanding external data sourcing – many organizations still find themselves lacking the data maturity to fulfill the promise of turning data into action on both the technology and business fronts. However, with the digital universe doubling in size every two years, the importance and complexity of harnessing data will only continue to grow. CDOs must have an overarching vision for how they will streamline their company’s data and empower all employees to extract the greatest possible insight from that data in order to create value. The key points of this strategy require capturing the right data, keeping it clean, and sharing it across sales, marketing, and customer-service functions.

Quickly Turn Data into Action

CDOs must put their strategy in motion immediately. Because real-time big data allows businesses across all industries to obtain instant insight and spur immediate action, a CDO who is quick to implement her roadmap can add value right away. Rather than digging into “rear-view,” weeks-old data, an effective CDO should hit the ground running by empowering the business to harness new data in real time and turn it into immediate action.

Be Agile, and Anticipate

The CDO role will continue to morph as the organization matures. Therefore, it is important to be agile enough to attack issues as they arrive and shift focus as business needs change. It likely will be necessary to refocus from data management to data governance and analytics as the organization’s use of data matures. The CDO not only should be showing the business how to gain immediate value from data, but also should be looking to see how he can stay one step ahead of competitors by anticipating how to continue to improve the organization’s data quality, management, and governance. Proactively using data within the organization will create a better overall customer experience, leading increased loyalty and profit.

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Despite the tremendous value a CDO can bring to an organization, Gartner reveals, in the report referenced above, that there is still a “lack of maturity and understanding of how to embrace, support and exploit the CDO role.” This gap is one of the greatest challenges the CDO faces: along with delivering results, they must prove the value of their role. By quickly taking action to ensure data makes a difference across the organization, CDOs will put themselves on a path to success.

Ashley Stirrup joined Talend in 2014 as Chief Marketing Officer. In this role, Ashley is responsible for driving market leadership, global awareness, product management and demand generation. Prior to Talend, Ashley held a number of senior leadership positions in marketing and products at leading cloud and software companies, including ServiceSource, Taleo, Citrix, and Siebel Systems.

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