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The important role your Chief Data Officer will play in a post-pandemic world

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Deloitte’s latest global Insight Driven Organisation (IDO) Survey gathered feedback from over 300 executives, with the unexpected response being that despite strained 2020 revenues for many sectors, 46% of respondents increased their budget for investing in analytics in the last year, whilst 49% maintained their pre-pandemic level of investment in analytics.

Your Chief Data Officer (CDO) is primarily responsible for growing your firm’s data and analytics capability. How are they investing these existing or enhanced budgets to maximise return on investment? What new responsibilities have emerged as an integral part of their role following the global COVID-19 pandemic? How can you, as the executive board, support your CDO?

This article helps you outline your CDO’s responsibilities with a framework that categorises the key capabilities to expect of your CDO, as well as highlight potential gaps which other executive team members could help buoy. Is your Chief Data Officer (CDO) a savvy strategist with analytics, or a catalyst for championing change in your organisation? Maybe they prefer being an operator who delivers data and analytics solutions to the business, rather than a steward focussed on ensuring appropriate governance of your firm’s data assets. As CDO, they need to be good at all four - this role is and will continue to be one of the most critical to your firm’s survival, recovery, and path to thriving following the pandemic and throughout the digital transformation of your organisation.

The four faces framework


Due to the varied nature of a CDO’s role, it is helpful to think of them having “four faces”: Strategist, Operator, Catalyst, and Steward. Each face categorises a set of priorities your CDO needs to address.

1. Strategist

A CDO must be able to provide leadership in championing the use of data as a strategic business asset to add value and facilitate achievement of business objectives. They must be able to take an enterprise view of data and analytics, building bridges across business siloes and ensure insights enable business and department growth strategies. Strategist behaviours include the ability to:

  • Develop, articulate and implement a clear vision on the importance of data in achieving business outcomes, ensuring business decisions are backed by sound analytical reasoning
  • Work with business leaders to embed data and analytics strategies into overall business strategies, leading to data-driven decisions in all functions
  • Define short and long term data objectives along with meaningful metrics ensuring continuous improvement and measurable change
  • Provide measurements on the progress of activities underway to achieve executive, financial and operational targets, ensuring benefits realised are understood by all sections of the business

2. Operator

To efficiently and effectively fulfil a CDO’s core responsibilities, a CDO should be able to balance capabilities, talent, costs and service levels across their organisation. Operator behaviours include the ability to:

  • Deliver data solutions on time, within budget and with the expected quality, building confidence within the business that analytics projects represent a worthwhile investment
  • Proactively monitor and manage compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Understand expectations, roles and responsibilities among their leadership and wider team, and ensuring that their team is structured to serve the immediate and future strategic priorities of the wider business
  • Develop metrics for communicating performance and generated business value to legitimise the investment and build future cases for funding

3. Catalyst

To achieve the strategic objectives of the organisation, the CDO must serve as an agent of change and be the catalyst to embedding a data-driven culture throughout the organisation. Catalyst behaviours include the ability to:

  • Define and instil data-driven values by influencing behaviours and shaping the culture of the organisation to put data at the heart of decision making
  • Know where to leverage investment in skills and capabilities, maximising the potential of the team and any future training opportunities
  • Understand the organisation’s capacity and ability to absorb major change, ensuring change is ambitious but controlled
  • Focus on data as an enabler and drive the innovation agenda ensuring continuous improvement and advancement through data

4. Steward

Finally, and crucially, a CDO must act as a steward and protect the organisation's critical data assets by effectively guiding the development of a data strategy that will enable the most effective use of these assets, while at the same time ensuring appropriate governance and oversight. Steward behaviours include the ability to:

  • Identify and articulate to management the internal and external data issues and pressures faced by the organisation
  • Identify and advocate for enterprise data standards (such as IFRS and GDPR legislation) and data quality
  • Manage the data lifecycle and develop an approach to assessing, monitoring and improving the data lifecycle
  • Define the RACI matrix for critical data across the organisation

The CDO role is multi-faceted and complex. It acts as the bridge between data at the ground level and business strategy at the executive level. Tasks such as identifying value creation opportunities from data, leading the build and run of strong data foundations, and embedding a culture of good data governance that yields trustworthy insights across business functions are all imperative for the success of your organisation. Our global IDO Survey further showed the average analytics team only comprises 1% of an organisation’s entire workforce – yet with the significant responsibilities under your CDO’s remit, adequate support of their role and of their team is needed to ensure that analytics investments continue to yield value for your organisation. With such a broad spectrum of expected skills, finding these four faces in a single person is extremely rare and emphasises the need to build an organisational structure that complements your CDO’s strengths.

Individuals will tend to excel in one face more than another. Importantly, the CDO that succeeds in steering their organisation through an unprecedented period of internal and external change is the ultimate Purple Person. Our long-standing IDO readers will recognise this “Purple Person” as one with the perfect blend of ‘red’ technical and ‘blue’ business acumen. The very best will be able to help transition the rest of the key decision makers on the board to evolving into Purple People as well.

There has never been a more pressing time to speak to and support your CDO!

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