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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

So You Want to Hire a CDO?

How can you ensure your new CDO will make a difference? Consider these four precautions before you hire.

Chief data officers are becoming pretty popular these days. We are (carefully) recommending them in about half of the strategies from our consultancy. Of course, anyone with a C-title is expected to formulate a "first 100 days" strategy, hit the ground running, and ultimately make a difference.

For Further Reading:

3 Steps for Establishing Your Chief Data Office the Right Way

No CDO? Better Think about Getting One

5 Steps for CDOs to Transform Data into a Strategic Asset

However, organizational factors can work against a new executive, rendering even the best hire ineffective and frustrated with organizations attaining no upward movement in their data maturity and coming no closer to being "data-driven." If your organization is in the process of hiring a CDO or thinking about it, take heed. Don't look for a CDO as a reaction to keep parity with marketplace peers and create a checkmark accomplishment. Many will apply and take the job whether it is set up for success or not.

Below I explain four precautions you can take to ensure your new CDO will make a positive impact for your enterprise. The best candidates will look for these factors in the hiring process.

Don't Look for Specific Product Experience

A good sign that the CDO position is misunderstood is looking for an abundance of specific products in the candidate's background. I've even seen a search for someone with specific release experience! A CDO will not be spending time on anything release-specific.

This job is about problem-solving, judgment, and leadership. If you are going to lead the market, you need to lead with data, which means bringing tons of judgment to the table to minimize false steps on a fast, agile journey. Failure will happen, but the right CDO can see the potential and make it a calculated judgment, instead of a catastrophic surprise.

Align the Job with Company Goals and Vision

The CDO will be positioned for success if you generally agree with his or her ideas about how to deliver to the company vision. His or her prospective plan can be articulated regardless of extensive knowledge of the current situation and should be evaluated based on its merits, not on con8forming to pre-existing company thought patterns.

Look to the Future

This is a strategic position on a journey -- a marathon and not a 100-yard sprint. Artificial intelligence starts with data, and if you believe in AI (or IoT or blockchain) and want to get into these emerging disciplines from the starting block, you need a true leader in addition to a tactical problem solver.

Be Ready to Believe in Data

A new CDO must evangelize the importance of data to the organization and show its undeniable influence on bottom-line results. However, if the CDO has to completely focus on convincing other executives of this reality, leaving no time for creating, shutting down, and supporting projects and programs, the organization will be disappointed in the results. It's OK to lack the knowledge or bandwidth to get there, but some understanding and a desire to be data-driven should exist before the CDO is hired.

No Guarantees

Of course, you can do all these things and still hire the wrong candidate. If that is the case, don't be discouraged. If you have cared enough to lay this groundwork, the right CDO is out there for you, someone who will raise your data maturity and lead the way to becoming a data-driven organization. It's well worth it.

About the Author

McKnight Consulting Group is led by William McKnight. He serves as strategist, lead enterprise information architect, and program manager for sites worldwide utilizing the disciplines of data warehousing, master data management, business intelligence, and big data. Many of his clients have gone public with their success stories. McKnight has published hundreds of articles and white papers and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His teams’ implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won awards for best practices. William is a former IT VP of a Fortune 50 company and a former engineer of DB2 at IBM, and holds an MBA. He is author of the book Information Management: Strategies for Gaining a Competitive Advantage with Data.

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