If I Were King; 4 Steps to Hiring a Chief Data Officer

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I have learned that the data world is really no different than the Ranger world, or the financial world or Sea World for that matter.  All organizations must be led by a boss and run by a staff of experts.  It is from this lens that I find the conflict of establishing and accepting the Chief Data Officer’s role in this digital economy to be, well, annoying.

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I've heard arguments that oppose the idea of a Chief Data Officer, but to me, this role makes great sense. There is obviously value in data and in the "Eversmann dictionary" data = money: greenbacks, ducks, dough, moolah, a fin, a Franklin...you get the picture. Therefore, it seems prudent to assign someone to be the custodian of all the corn in that silo. 

So if I were king and realized the need to digitize my kingdom, I would add one more Knight to the round table, the CDO, and this is how I would do it:


1. Legitimacy

In order to make this new role legitimate, I would spend a significant amount of time with the CDO to outline their role and responsibilities in a way that aligns with the company’s vision. We have to make sure this role can stand alone in relation to all the other staff officers.

Next, I would bring together the executive staff and explain the importance of the CDO and how this new role will be a force multiplier (army speak for value add). It is also essential to demonstrate the synergy between the other officers and explain how this new role will positively impact the bottom line that everyone cares about. 

2. Authority

As a King, I will use my power to deputize the new Chief Data Officer in front of the entire kingdom. I will have it known that whenever the topic relates to data, my CDO will have the authority to speak on the king’s behalf. I will be sure to observe the early interactions between the other knights and be prepared to intervene if the CDO’s authority is challenged.

3. Accountability

Once we have established the authority of the CDO, we will focus on accountability. I do not have time to become an expert in data, so this Knight must be held accountable for all things data. I also expect this CDO to designate data accountability among their battalion in order to provide the kingdom clean and high quality data.

4. Strategy

No one knows the value of data like the CDO, just like no one knows the people like HR. I would expect the CDO to develop a data strategy that leads the entire kingdom’s digital transformation.  The Chief Data Officer must be savvy enough to work seamlessly with others and explain the value of data in a simple way that everyone can understand. This person will also continuously search for better data solutions, refine his plan to support my goals, and give me fair counsel when I need it.

I know this is simplistic and I appreciate the technical points that go along with the role of the CDO, but if I were to become the new CDO tomorrow, I would expect these four factors to be addressed. Data’s impact on organizations has reached a point where it will be impossible to ignore the need for a C-suite role that is responsible for the company’s data. Use these four steps to help ensure that the Chief Data Officer is accepted into the company and effective from day one.

Still not sure if you need a Chief Data Officer? Read our blog “A Clear sign you need a chief data officer” by Principal Partner Marie Crump.

Looking for a guide to Data Governance? Read our blog “The CDO’s Guide to Data Governance Maturity Models" by President & CEO Will Crump.

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