As the world moves to cloud, the role of data is becoming more prominent, and the challenge for businesses is to not only keep up with the pace of this change, but to make the most of the growing number of opportunities on offer.
Historically businesses have looked to heavily customise their solutions, driving the adoption of on-premise solutions. With the pace at which technology continues to evolve, so too has the way in which businesses manage their data, and they are finding the cloud offers simplification and standardisation not afforded by on-premise. So the new implementation challenges are around change management and data migration.
This is where the role of the CDO becomes crucial. In order to fully harness the cloud opportunity, businesses need to put technology in the hands of someone who, whilst having an appreciation of technology, is also able to understand how to exploit the data that is relevant for business users, and aligned to corporate objectives.
Europe has been one area where we’ve seen companies driven to appointing a CDO predominantly from a compliance perspective – legislation and governance are key parts of the CDO’s role, and challenges will vary from market to market and region to region. While that is not to be dismissed, what I see is really going to drive this role over the subsequent months and years is the practical reality that as businesses increasingly move to the cloud, and data becomes more and more fragmented, someone with a strategic view of how data impacts the business will need to oversee the stewardship and security of this data.
Before the cloud era, it was the role of a Chief Architect’s to define data architecture and standards. With that mostly now determined by the vendor, the CDO is left to focus on controlling and managing business data effectively.
I recently contributed to research conducted by Experian Data Quality, entitled "Rise of the Data Force,” which gathers the opinions of more than 40 Chief Data Officers and senior business executives, showing how a new ‘data force’ is ambitiously driving change in many blue-chip, multi-nationals across Europe.
One point that all these ‘data brokers’ agreed upon is that technology and people must be highly interlinked. The overall view from participants is getting maximum value from one is dependent on the other. Technology is a great enabler and can accelerate performance when deployed at the right point of business impact.
Any business looking to hire a CDO should move quickly rather than waiting to figure out the perfect definition and the perfect skills for the role. This role doesn’t have a classic profile; it’s too new for that.
Success likely requires more than a bit of IT technical knowledge, but that’s not enough. Business acumen and understanding of the power of data is what really matters now. CDOs should be innovators and communicators who can drive change throughout an organisation, whilst prioritising data governance. Technical skills were not considered important by 94% of participants in the Experian study and CDOs are being recruited from a variety of industry backgrounds. However, what’s clear is that these new senior figures need to be leaders of innovation, powered by data, senior in stature and relentless business-outcome driven.
By Mike Ettling, President HR Line of Business, SAP