Based on my own experience and from my interactions with other Chief Data Officer’s, there are 3 facts that are relevant to this topic.
CDO roles differ by definition based on the model chosen.
CDOs differ in background, responsibilities and intent.
CDO organizations take different maturity and evolution paths.
The definition, right choice of candidate, and maturity path are collectively influenced by the model / approach taken from a coverage standpoint – how comprehensive, targeted or expansive the positioning is. Also, there can be continuous role expansion based on the extent of opportunities and problems that a company strives to solve through the data, analytic and digital initiatives – which is why choosing a CDO who can grow / adapt with the role expansion is critical.
In some scenarios, given the complexity and size of the organization, it is impossible for the one CDO to grow as the needs expand, and this situation can be handled by splitting the roles at various levels, or supporting the function with good leaders across business and technology areas to achieve desired results in a coordinated fashion.
CDO roles differ by definition based on the model chosen:
The following 3 variations largely shape up the way the CDO role would have to be defined. The type of person you need is determined by the intersection of these variations for your situation and weighting involved for each variation.
For example, if the expectation is that the central CDO organization will be providing oversight, policy and guidance and play a passive role in actually determining the future direction of the data and analytics landscape and that would be left to the CDOs or data teams at the entity level, then you need a different type of CDO at the center than at the entity-level. More of this when we discuss the second point.
CDOs differ in background, responsibilities and intent:
It should come as no surprise that if the expectations on the CDO differ based on their positioning, the qualifications and experience will be vastly different as well. People move into
CDO roles from very different backgrounds – as diverse as PMO, Marketing, Business Analysis, Risk Management, Finance, Marketing and Technology. Some of them are extremely process oriented, while others are highly business-oriented while a segment of them are highly technical. But they all better be big-picture players, otherwise, it’s easy to get sucked into the tactical nightmare.
I am a big proponent of taking a fluid approach to organizational design and candidate selection. i.e., the right organizational design and the perfect candidate is completely based on the company’s needs, problems and opportunities at that time. It is similar to trying to determine which player will help win the game. It depends on your opponents and the situation you are in the game. Sometimes, an offensive strategy would work, while other times, you need a much cautious defensive approach.
Determining who would be a good fit is therefore a decision based on the analysis of current state problems, mandates, cultural barriers for change, C-suite appetite to accepting current state findings and willingness to support change, as well as a dose of reality with regards to how much traction and / or change can be embraced by the user community – IT and Business.