Hiring a Chief Data Officer: focus on role and skills

Photo Dick Pouw MBA
Author: Dick Pouw MBA
Associate Partner & Chief Data Officer

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) has final responsibility for the management team who transforms the organization, prioritizing a digital, but above all a data-driven way of working. In addition to being a manager focused on data, he is also a ‘data evangelist’ who, based on the figures, inspires the organization to work in a more data-driven or information-driven way. If this position is filled properly with sufficient mandate and decisiveness, the CDO can quickly prove his or her added value. In short: the Chief Data Officer is pre-eminently the driver of the intelligent, data-driven organization.

The CDO is in high demand

This function is being created in droves, especially in large, data-driven organizations like banks and government institutions. This new role demands new competencies and a totally different perspective on business. The demand is high, but unfortunately, the supply is low. Finding and recruiting the right (interim) CDO is a challenge.

The role of the Chief Data Officer

What should you pay attention to when hiring or staffing a Chief Data Officer position? The most important factors are:

  • The CDO requires a different skill set than what people currently have. Which skills do they need?
  • What’s the role of the CDO in an organization, and which responsibilities come with it?
  • What should you do if you want to find a Chief Data Officer, or if you want to become a CDO?
  • What does a Passionned Group interim CDO bring to the table?
  • How do you embed data-driven working, and how do you demonstrate it successfully?

We’ll go in-depth into these points below.

Which skills should a (future) CDO possess?

The relatively new function of Chief Data Officer demands a different, data-focused, perspective on the organization. The CDO works using all available internal and external data. It’s their job to make sure that the organization makes the correct decisions based on this data, and that the data is complete and correct.

The bucks stop at the Chief Data Officer

The CDO is the manager who harmonizes and structures data streams and simplifies and ensures the quality of data intake. This manager is also responsible for what happens to data in an organization. Given all the developments around data responsibility and privacy, this part is becoming increasingly important.

The figurehead for data-driven working

The CDO should also be the figurehead for data-driven working in an organization. They have to be able to promote this philosophy and get the rest of the organization on board. That requires a fundamental change in the organization.

Artificial Intelligence is on the CDO’s doorstep

The Chief Data Officer has to be aware of all the developments in their field. Technology is rapidly developing, and they have to consider what to invest in. New solutions and languages crop up at a rapid rate, Big Data has hardly been introduced in an organization and a development like Artificial Intelligence is already waiting in the wings.

All in all, the CDO has a broad competency profile. They also have to be able to convince the organization of their solutions and follow all the relevant technological developments.

The intelligent organization and the Chief Data Officer

Passionned Group is the “inventor” of the intelligent organization; a way to structure organizations around data collection, data processing, and data distribution. In other words, organizations work based on data. Our Business Intelligence book is the ultimate management handbook.

Do you want to hire a Chief Data Officer?

Chief Data Officers can technically be hired anywhere, but Passionned Group specializes in data-driven working and has a great track record in the field. Our people can implement this difficult change like no others, while working together with you.

We only work with highly experienced managers who have experienced this change in practice. Our extensive network enables us to introduce the right candidates quickly.

After making a choice, the chosen candidate can usually get started in your organization quickly. If you want to know more, feel free to contact us.

Data-related roles

✓ CRM manager
BI manager
Data Architect
Chief Information Officer

The practical skills of successful CDOs

A CDO needs to have a wide array of skills. They need to have strong managerial skills, be able to work together, and have a strong technical (ICT) foundation to be able to implement complex changes. What are the most important factors?

  • Firstly, the CDO has to be able to work together with all echelons of the organization. Data-driven working is the entire top management team’s responsability, from the CEO to the CIO. The final responsibility for data has to lie with the CDO, of course. This could be a role of one of the directors, like the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) or the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), but it can also be a separate function in some organizations.
  • They have to be able to simplify the complex, data-driven transformation and visualize and communicate this new reality (storytelling).
  • They have to be able to connect all data sources (internal and external) and establish data-driven working across all departments. In other words, they have to be able to create alliances with many different groups.
  • They have to be able to accurately assess the risks and values of data to an organization. This is becoming more and more important in light of the new privacy rules and regulations like GDPR.

They especially have to be able to stay on top of every development, based on (Big) Data, and translate that into concrete actions within the organization.

Is the CDO replacing the CIO and the Chief Digital Officer?

The Chief Data Officer is a new function, but the question is: isn’t it old news? Aren’t they replacing the CIO and the Chief Digital Officer? Our answer is no, they should be able to co-exist.

  • The Chief Information Officer is more focused on providing the information and ICT infrastructure to the organization. Delivering services like a data warehouse environment, Big Data solutions, and unlocking source systems are some of their responsibilities.
  • The Chief Digital Officer is more focused on the outside of the organization, that is to say, the customer side. Their attention is on matters like which channels are being used, which apps should be developed, and which innovative new digital products have to be put on the market.

The Chief Data Officer is the one who bears the final responsibility for data assets within an organization as far as contents, reliability, and privacy concerns go.

The roles complement each other and clearly have different focuses. We do sometimes see that the roles are combined, depending on the organizational data needs and scope.

Request CDO Interim

The Chief Data Officer shouldn’t just know about all the (data) trends but also have an answer to them. The (data) trends are affected by the digital revolution and all kinds of technological developments. The most important trends we’re seeing are:

  • Mobile and Cloud: mobile solutions are being used more and more when it comes to registering, processing, and distributing data. These devices are connected to highly scalable Cloud solutions that can process large amounts of data.
  • The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT): the amount of devices and sensors that register data is increasing exponentially. Vast quantities of data are being produced at all times, and it’s important for organizations to be able to use this information in real time.
  • Analytics and algorithms are success factors: organizations are being inundated with data. People can’t see the forest for the trees. This abundance of data and the speed at which companies have to react means that fast storage and quick interpretation of data are the keys to success.
  • Data ethics and security: legislation and regulation are putting more demands on data storage and privacy. Questions like “who owns the data”, “can it be hacked”, and “are we complying with privacy regulations” are crucial to doing business. Not complying with the rules can lead to reputation damage and high fines.
  • Information belongs to everyone: processing, interpreting, and distributing data is no longer the sole domain of one BI department within Finance or ICT. In data-driven organizations, everyone has access to this data. The question is how to ensure data quality and governance.

Organizations have to deal with a lot more trends, but these are the most important ones in data. That’s why it’s essential for every CDO to have a clear data strategy, in which they formulate an answer to these trends.

Opening for Chief Data Officer

Passionned Group is regularly looking for experienced CDOs to help service its clients. If you’re such a candidate, and you have experience with data-driven transformations, we’d love to meet you. Leave us your contact information here and we’ll contact you as soon as possible.

Do you have any questions?

Has this article raised any questions or do you want to talk to us about this subject? Feel free to contact us. We’re happy to discuss this with you.

About Passionned Group

Logo Passionned Group, the expert in Chief Data OfficerPassionned Group is a leading firm in designing and implementing Business Analytics. Our senior Data Scientists and consultants assist both large and small companies towards becoming smarter enterprises. Every two years we organize the Dutch BI & Data Science Award™.

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Our Chief Data Officers

Photo Dick Pouw - Associate Partner & Chief Data OfficerDICK POUW MBAAssociate Partner & Chief Data Officer
Photo Thomas Abramse - Interim CDO & Consultant Data-driven WorkingTHOMAS ABRAMSE MScInterim CDO & Consultant Data-driven Working
Photo Jan Bond - Interim Chief Data OfficerJAN BOND MScInterim Chief Data Officer

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