Chief Data Officers Face People Challenges


Anyone who’s worked in a field that is rapidly changing can tell you that some of the biggest challenges to success are not technology or systems but people. As I discussed in my September 16, 2015 blog, we are living in a world of lots of data. One of the ways companies are trying to harness the value of data is by hiring Chief Data Officers (CDOs) – someone who can entirely focus on data in the C-suite and build up a data analytics infrastructure. According to a Gartner “CIO Advisory: The Chief Data Officer Trend Gains Momentum” study in 2013 there were over 100 CDOs, which is more than double the number in 2012. Experts only expect that number to rise.

According to a recent Corinium report, the role of the CDO varies by company and is changing to include many tasks such as building a data management framework, creating consistent customer information, meeting regulatory demands and developing customer insights. The report contains interviews from 14 CDOs around the mainly the U.S., many from the financial sector. Several of them mention that balancing stakeholder expectations and effectively managing a culture of change are two of the big challenges they face.

According to CDOs Amy-Shi-Nash and Shameek Kundu, consumer experiences are increasingly shaped by online companies such as Google that may not face the same regulated environments as their companies. The challenge of the CDO is to identify the customer’s data needs and how to best use emerging technologies to meet these needs. There are countless suggestions as to manage customer expectations and each takes a team committed to delighting the customer.

Change management in the world of data is like change in other sectors – often slow and fraught with resistance. Derek Strauss says that “when it comes to implementing strategic improvements…it is difficult [for them] to make the change. I feel like we need more emphasis on change management and education.” Troy Delbridge of Private Healthcare Australia says that by applying insightful analysis for the user, you can convince them of the value of data and help them to change. Another strategy for implementing change according to Brian Bissett is to start small and show positive results. CDOs need to win over critics that may see the role as a temporary fad rather than a lasting competitive advantage.


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