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Chief Data Officer: Role and Responsibilities

Top 10 Challenges for Chief Data Officers in 2023

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) role is becoming an increasingly critical role. Previously, it was only assigned as an additional responsibility, but it has quickly become a full-time role in most organizations. So, what are the main challenges and responsibilities of the Chief Data Officer heading into 2023? Response below.

The role of the Chief Data Officer in 2023

In a nutshell, the Chief Data Officer is the highest authority regarding managing and overseeing an organization’s data. Their biggest mission is to make the most of the company’s data and ensure it is leveraged as much as possible by all teams. The CDO is also responsible for optimizing data collection, storage, reliability, and quality. However, as this role is relatively new, it is evolving quickly and may differ depending on the company.

 #1: Respond to business challenges

It is all too easy to get lost in data management’s tactical and technical issues. The risk is even higher if the Chief Data Officer has a technical profile. However, the CDO must keep the business’s needs in the forefront of their mind. If data governance’s strategic and cultural aspects are left aside, business leaders may not feel as implicated as they should. And if they are not fully convinced, they will not change their data-related practices and not communicate enough with the data experts. The result: the business impact will be greatly lessened.

As the true data director, the CDO must focus on their primary objective in 2023: to serve the company’s business.

#2: Avoid becoming a double agent in the service of data

While the CDO has become a single, official position, it still happens that they might assume two separate roles simultaneously: Chief Data Officer and Chief Digital Officer. Yet, these two roles should ideally be assigned to two different people, as the responsibility load is typically too great to merge the two. However, according to Gartner, “By 2023, 50% of chief digital officers without a chief data officer (CDO) peer will need to become the de facto CDO to succeed.”

If your company’s Chief Data Officer is its Chief Digital Officer, they are also responsible for advising the business referents on its overall digital strategy.  Those objectives include:

  • to advise on emerging digital business models, in particular, to generate more revenue and not be overtaken by the competition;
  • optimize the use of digital tools within the company;
  • improve data governance.

#3: Be compliant with sensitive data regulations

Compliance with data regulations, such as the GDPR, is a major occupation for most Chief Data Officers…What to do with sensitive data and personal data collected by the company? How to use it while being compliant with regulations? Do we need to change some internal processes? While these questions are essential, they should not be at the heart of the Chief Data Officer’s issues. Their role is to be at the business’s service and find business benefits in the company’s data to improve decision-making.

Managing compliance and sensitive data is a task best left to the Data Protection Officer.

#4: Accompany teams in change management

Depending on the company, stakeholders can slow down change attempts. The executive committee, the IT department, the business referents, and even the employees may refuse the change for various reasons:

  • Too high a demand on financial or human resources;
  • Lack of motivation to change daily work habits;
  • Discouragement in the face of the magnitude of the task at hand.

To convince them to accept the change, it’s advisable to start by proposing a simple and quick use case, which will serve as an example for the Chief Data Officer to make the rest of the company understand the importance of Data Governance and its smooth implementation.

#5: Adopt a data culture

Adopting a data culture means adapting to new tools and internal processes. However, the key notions linked to data transformation are often misunderstood or confused: digital vs. data, data hub vs. data lake, governance vs. compliance, dataviz vs. business intelligence… Creating a general understanding of these terms is a big challenge for the chief data officer. The role of the Chief Data Officer is to evangelize the teams. If employees and managers understand the challenges of the data culture and take ownership of them, they will easily adopt the company’s transformation and change management.

The objective is to get all the company’s departments to work together. Better use of data means a better impact on the business plan.

#6: Adapt and work with suboptimal legacies

The IT systems used by the company are not always adapted to the needs identified by the Chief Data Officer. While the idea is not to replace all the tools, it is nevertheless essential to acquire new data storage and analysis technologies to ensure the performance of business referents. The question is: how to integrate them into the existing infrastructure?

There is no need to change everything: the process would be too expensive, too complicated, and too long to implement. What is needed is to make small changes in daily practices that will have a significant positive impact on the whole company.

#7: Overcome the lack of visibility into the data lifecycle

Data quality is not defined or heterogeneous. The data collected by the company does not always have a clearly defined source, transformation and use. Moreover, data is sometimes managed in silos in different departments. These departments do not have the same uses or interpretations of the information they use, making it more difficult to understand the available assets.

How can we make data accessible to everyone? The Chief Data Officer must lead a data mapping project using a Data Catalog. This will enable them to trace the origins, see the transformations that have been made, and determine the uses.

#8: Build a team of data people

To ensure the implementation of data governance, the Chief Data Officer must build a strong team of data-driven employees. Data Scientists, Data Analysts, and Data architects…these profiles are highly sought after, but candidates are few and far between. Hasty recruitment is one of the leading causes of the failure of the Data Governance strategy. So don’t hesitate to put in the time and effort required to establish a strong data team.

Chief Data Officer: An evolving role

The role of the Chief Data Officer will likely grow substantially in the coming years as more and more industries begin to realize the importance of having someone overseeing their data. The position is becoming increasingly complex, and the CDO needs to stay on top of new developments to have a sustaining impact on the organization. The job itself continues to evolve, with new players entering the scene to help this individual with their mission.

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