I meet with a range of different companies and customers every day and in the past few years I’ve noticed a significant shift in the focus of our conversations. From once discussing complex systems for dealing with data, we now acknowledge the need for dedicated people to look into data, and how to equip them with the tools to do so. Why? Because it is an unparalleled asset which can help organisations better understand their customers, streamline internal operations, increase profitability, and optimise business processes.

Most companies maintain inventories of their assets including number of employees or IT hardware and even replaceable items such as office furniture. Oddly, it’s rare to find an organisation that keeps stock of what data they have and where it’s stored.

Unlike most of these assets, data is not static. Just as we evolve over time as people and customers, so too do businesses – pivoting their models, augmenting their operations by launching new market offerings, or transforming their processes. The dynamic nature of information adds to the complexity and volume of the data – both internal and external – that organisations have access to. Such flux is not typically easy to manage. If you’ve reached this point in your business and want to drive the most value from your data, it’s time to hire a specialised individual – a Chief Data Officer (CDO).

Defining the CDO’s role

Just as your CMO is responsible for your marketing initiatives, your CDO is responsible for overseeing, managing, and designing your data operations and strategy. Every action taken by this C-suite level executive is aimed towards a single goal: to drive optimum business value and identify new opportunities or threats by utilising your organisation’s data resources.

But how do CDOs do this? By empowering stakeholders across the board with relevant, data-driven insights. Access to such contextual information at every point of the decision-making process can help business users across the board – be it the senior leadership team, the board, or employees – make more accurate and value-driven decisions. The CDO transforms conventional processes through the power of data to realise value that would otherwise remain hidden.
Making relevant data accessible to all business users within the organisation requires a fundamental change in the way organisations approach their data operations. Guiding your business through this transformation also falls under the purview of your CDO.

The role is comprehensive, integrative, and requires the CDO to hold extensive expertise in business functions such as digital marketing, analytics, supply chain management, and customer relationship management (CRM). They are responsible for managing logical integrations across the IT infrastructure and breaking down the information silos across your organisation into a vast, interconnected data pool that everyone can tap into – as and when they need.

Moreover, the CDO and their team are required to build strong relationships with both internal and external stakeholders, as well as effectively convey the impact of adopting data-driven operations to key business leaders and their teams. This requires them to have strong communication skills. The CDO must also represent your organisation in various industry events and take up issues pertaining to digital transformation that impact most organisations, as a true thought leader.

Managing data adequately and extracting the maximum business value from it requires proper custodians, experts with the required knowledge and proficiency to handle, process, and manage an organisation’s data resources. The fact that we now have specialised data professionals and more organisations are investing in Data Literacy training underpins how critical data has become for business operations today.

Organisations know that data should not be trivialised. Doing so can lead them to miss out on the massive business opportunity that the data explosion is creating. C-suite executives must understand the need for an independent business unit which lives, breathes and prospers through data. Hiring a CDO will prove transformative in this process.