Business leaders around the world have realized the importance of managing data as an enterprise asset, which has led to a growing need for leadership at executive level to fulfill the corporate
requirement. The executive position is created and filled by organizations to address the accountability and focus required to perform the strategic mission. The executive is expected to bring
people, process, and technologies together to generate business value from its data assets. This article highlights the background and skills required for the chief data officer (CDO). It also
presents career path for want-to-be CDOs. Human resource organizations and executive search firms can use this article as a guideline for recruiting purposes.
What Does it Take to be a Chief Data Officer?
As there is continued trend to create this new C-level position, organizations will once again face the dilemma of searching and hiring for the executive position. The CDO is expected to work in
conjunction with the CIO of the organization and may report to the CTO or CEO. There has to be clear distinction of duties between the CDO and the CIO since this new C-level position will be carved
out of current CIO job responsibilities. Industry analysts and thought leaders have written articles about the CDO job and the potential responsibilities involved. Let’s look closely at what
background and skills are required for the CDO position.
negotiation and conflict management, and thought leadership
Business Skills and Background: Business financial management, compliance and regulatory requirements, solid understanding of business
domain, solid understanding of business processes, program management, change management, and risk management
Technical Skills: Data governance, data administration, data warehousing, business intelligence, data architecture, data integration, data
classification, data strategy, data quality management, data security and privacy, master data management, data mining, data standards, very large databases (VLDBs), information assurance, data
storage technologies, and enterprise architecture frameworks
As you can see, the CDO is required to have intimate knowledge of the business processes as well as the industry domain expertise. For this reason, the CDO is most likely to get hired from
within the organization. Of the background and skills listed above, the soft and business skills are a “must have” in order to be effective as a CDO. The CDO must have expert-level
technical skills in a few areas and should be proficient in other areas. It is a tall order for the want-to-be CDOs; however, it is not out of reach if they have the core technical skills along with
soft and business skills. So, who are the potential CDOs in an organization? Following is a list of positions that can grow into the CDO position:
- Vice President Data Management Services
- Vice President Business Intelligence
- Vice President Data Governance and Data Administration
- Senior Director Data Architect
- Senior Director Database Services
The day-to-day responsibilities for the CDO can vary from organization to organization. There are several factors that could affect the breadth and depth of the job responsibilities including:
entity type (public sector, commercial or non-profit), industry type (public service, retail, or community service), management culture, size (market capitalization, number of employees, revenue,
budget, etc.). At the same time, the core responsibilities will remain more or less same regardless of the organization type and size.
A Day in the CDO’s Professional Life
What does a typical day look like for a CDO? The following fictitious example will give you a taste of the dynamic nature of the executive job:
7:30 am: Meeting with the CTO and CIO to go over the organization’s current data security exposures and potential business impacts.
9:30 am: Meeting with VP of Engineering and VP of HR to promote data sharing
11:30 am: Attend vendor demo for data security product
12:30 pm: Lunch meeting with VP of Marketing to go over data quality issues in the customer database
2:00 pm: Attend the executive briefing: “XBLR and its Benefits for the Corporate World”
4:00 pm: Review and approve business cases and budget for business intelligence projects
6:30 pm: Prepare boardroom presentation for “Strategic Advantages of Migrating to Single Database Platform”
It is clear from the background and skills requirement, that the CDO position is highly visible executive position requiring deep knowledge of data technology and business as applicable to the
individual organization and also to the industry. In order to be considered for the CDO position, the candidate is expected to have most of the soft skills and business skills listed above. Since
there is no learning time, the candidate is expected to have a fair understanding of the listed technologies. And, finally, since this is a potential boardroom position where the CDO is expected to
interact with the CEO and the board members on critical issues ranging from financial reporting to customer data privacy, this position requires the maturity to understand the business as well as
charisma to educate and influence peers.