7 battle lines are drawn around the Chief Data Officer

7 battle lines are drawn around the Chief Data Officer

7 battle lines are drawn around the Chief Data Officer

The last of 3 blogs looking at the role of the CDO.

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) is a new role for many organisations and there is a danger that it will become a revolving door – a victim of political battles.  In our previous blogs we explored what a CDO is and what their role is. In this blog we explore what the battle lines are and how organisations and CDOs can navigate through these un-charted waters.

There are no one-size fits all solutions, but we have identified 7 areas where the battle lines are frequently drawn.  If organisations can articulate the answers to these questions, then the level of conflict should be reduced.

Without senior level sponsorship the required Data Governance initiatives are condemned to failure
  1. Do CDOs ensure compliance, or audit compliance?
    This is an important difference because if a CDO is responsible for auditing compliance then they are responsible for identifying problems and advising others upon fixing them.  If the role of the CDO is ensuring compliance, however, then they are actively responsible for managing change.  In most organisations actively managing the change is the role of the CDO.  “This makes the CDO a very hands-on role rather than one concerned with assessing compliance.
  2. Is this a board role or lower level director?
    If the CDO is to be an agent of change then political capital will be required in order to facilitate change.  This means that the CDO will need to have a seat near the top table and a powerful sponsor on the top table.  Without senior level sponsorship the required Data Governance initiatives are condemned to failure.
     
  3. Is the CDO part of the IT organisation or separate?
    If the CDO is seen as the customer for data within the organisation, then the CDO should not be in the IT organisation.  This is because there is a conflict of interest; the CDO can’t be both supplier and consumer, ownership of business data shouldn’t be the role of IT (technical services should not have ownership of business users’ data).  This all suggests that CDO does not belong to IT.  However, to be effective the CDO needs to have technical knowledge that overlaps with the IT Data architect role. The relationship between the CDO and the IT organisation is an important one requiring collaboration and mutual respect.
     
  4. Does the CDO drive the Business Intelligence and analytics strategy?
    Should CDO drive the businesses data strategy including analytics?  Does responsibility for management information and reporting fall to the CDO?  This is an attractive option because it can ensure that management information and reporting align with the data strategy and provides a more powerful position (Head of Data Strategy and Management Information).  If Management Information previously sat in the IT department, it could be seen as a threat to IT and a reduction in their responsibilities.
     
  5. Who owns data science?
    Many organisations are struggling with this question.  Data Science teams can be spread across the organisation, or centralised due to pressures of cost or scarcity of skills.  A centralised team would make sense to sit with the CDO because they are responsible for the business interpretation of data, in a similar way to Management Information discussed above.  Again, this may mean setting up an organisation outside of IT but with IT skills sowing the seeds for conflict if the relationship is not carefully cultivated.
     
  6. How much of a voice does the CDO have in IT discussions?
    The degree of technical knowledge the CDO (or their department) has will help determine the strength of their voice within IT discussions. If the CDO team’s skill set grows, how much of a choice should they have regarding the technical solutions that they use to do their job?  For example, where Finance can select SAP and ask IT to implement it, surely the CDO can choose the Data Warehouse method and analytic tools and simply ask IT to provide those?  But these decisions would have a significant impact on the IT architecture and collaboration is key.
     
  7. Does the CDO own Master Data Management (MDM)?
    Organisations need to decide whether MDM is a business or technically driven solution.  As integration and analytics become more important, master business data becomes increasingly important also.  In time it may make sense for MDM activities to sit within an organisation owned by the CDO.
Ownership of business data should not be the role of IT

All these points above may break out in parallel with political battles and a great deal of wasted effort as the organisation attempts to settle down into a productive way of working.  It may be that without addressing these questions effectively some organisations may never get there. 

What is needed is a very clear set of policy decisions from the very top of the organisation to avoid these problems.  As the role of data within the organisation becomes more important, so does the role of the CDO – a revolving door helps no-one.