What Enterprises Need From Data Strategists: A Recruiter’s Perspective

by   |   May 31, 2013 3:48 pm   |   0 Comments

Justin Cerilli of Russell Reynolds

Justin Cerilli of Russell Reynolds

It’s not just about technical expertise. Enterprises are looking for data strategists, leaders who can influence business cultures “to make things happen.” That’s the message from Justin Cerilli, a New York-based executive recruiter for Russell Reynolds Associates with specific expertise in big data and analytics. He focuses on financial services clients, helping them find executive talent to handle operations and technology. In an interview with Data Informed, he discusses the current state of the big data and analytics skills market, as well as what his clients ask for when seeking a data or analytics officer.

Data Informed: What do your clients say they want in a data or analytics officer?

Justin Cerilli: We’re seeing a huge emphasis on analytics leaders who don’t just bring the IQ, but bring some of the EQ (emotional quotient) to drive a cultural shift in companies that will allow them to take advantage of the analytics itself. There’s a huge opportunity for analytics officers and chief data officers to drive decisions that allow true business growth, and right now nobody’s doing it.

What are the differences between a data officer and an analytics officer? 

Cerilli: A chief data officer is responsible for the quality of the data. In some ways there’s too much data out there. And they’re determining, “How do I ensure there’s quality data that the business can act off of?” That chief data officer is enabling businesses to rely on the quality of that data. What the analytics person is doing is driving the sophisticated analysis of big data to drive insights and strategic decisions. That’s how I see companies usually kind of splitting that out. I’ve also seen companies combine those roles into one. When they combine it into one, they usually don’t report to the CIO. They report to the COO because there’s such a huge business component to it.

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A lot of companies will have a chief data officer at the enterprise level, and then you’ll have an enterprise officer more in the business lines because they can drive more sophisticated approaches to whatever customer segmentation is needed. And the chief data officer at the enterprise level is really creating a central data repository for analytics officers that can enable quality analytics.

The McKinsey report from 2011 predicted a shortage in analytics talent for the next few years, but some people industry believe the shortage is overblown. What are you seeing?

Cerilli: I think both sides are right. There is a shortage of people who call themselves chief data officers. Quite frankly, there’s not a shortage of talent who could be in that role to drive the business impacts you need. Companies aren’t being creative enough in thinking about who can be in that role and they’re focusing too much on the data and technical skills, when they should be more focused on the influencing and strategic skills because these data roles are more culture roles than technical in some ways.

When I recruit for a chief data officer or I recruit for a chief analytics officer, there is some technical component to it, but really what companies are prioritizing is strategic acumen, business acumen. Are they bringing an ROI mindset to data and analytics? Do they have the necessary relationship and influencing skills to actually enable this?

The third and most important criterion is the ability to deliver, both directly and through influence. The fourth is technical depth.

Are most enterprises savvy enough now to understand what they really need in terms of data and analytics professionals?

Cerilli: Most companies coming to us say they need someone to make things happen. A lot of companies have hired the data architect, or the pure analytics person, and they’ve realized that person can keep working and not get anything done. So we’re seeing companies wanting someone who can make these great concepts happen.

How do the best data and analytics officer candidates distinguish themselves?

Cerilli: The best data and analytics officers aren’t saying, “Hey, hire me and two years from now, we’re going to show you something.” They’re saying, “Hire me, and two weeks from now we’re going to start showing you reports that will allow you to better run your business.” It’s that fast.

Contributing Editor Christopher Nerney (cnerney@nerney.net) is a freelance writer in upstate New York. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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