Guest blog by the co-authors of The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook, Caroline Carruthers (Group Director of Data Management, Lowell Group) and Peter Jackson (Head of Data, Southern Water).
Gartner predicted that by 2019, 90% of large organisations will have hired a CDO – but only 50% of these will be a success. Much of what determines your success or failure going forward will take place in the first 100 days. Essentially it is about getting the basics right now and building firm foundations for the future.
What do you expect when you start?
The first hundred days are important to set the expectations for the CDO you are going to be going forward; now from one CDO to another, expect a real rollercoaster of a ride, there will be amazing highs followed by moments where you sit with your head in your hands wondering what on earth you have done. Basically a microcosm of the rest of your role as a CDO just crammed into a shorter time period.
Case for change
The very first thing you need to do is understand your organisation’s case for change; if it’s not there, create it; if it needs help, redefine it. But whatever you do make sure you have a clear easy-to-describe case for change. In order to be an effective CDO you will be changing the organisation, and no change starts without a burning platform or an absolutely massive benefit at the end. If you can’t find the case for change then you might as well go home at this point.
What you are aiming for
The case for change helps you set the vision for what benefits you are aiming for, whether they are saving the organisation from repeating mistakes or gaining insight to derive more value. It’s the compelling argument that makes people want to help create the future you are selling. It also helps to set your scope out and start to set expectations about what you will and won’t be doing. People often forget about the ‘not doing’ part of a scope but it’s equally important as what you are doing, if not more so, without it people can overlay their own expectations and just assume they are getting everything they’ve always wanted just because they misinterpreted what you meant. Whilst you need to create a compelling vision, it’s best to be realistic about where you can go, what it will feel like, and how long it is going to take to make a difference.
There is no point in starting a journey without having an idea of your destination. You don’t need a fixed point you are trying to drag the company to, rather an idea in mind of where you are leading them. A bit like giving them a treasure map where you might not have buried the treasure yet but you know what island you are burying it on, they will get more maps the closer to the goal they get.
We are going to assume you have a team in place, knowing how long this process can take, unless we assume you have a team in place the whole story of your first 100 days will be taken up by fighting to get people to come and help you against departments who practice the dark arts and refuse to let you see the play book. There is a need to have people around you to help as no one person will ever be able to change the company without a lot of support. Apart from the need for skills and experience that are varied and wide ranging, you also need the support when you have some of your rollercoaster lows to help you get back on the upward track.
Then you need to look at what basics you are trying to get right, what materials are going to make up your foundation?
To keep it simple we’ve broken these down into three main areas
Let’s face it, you will be making changes to the organisation and you might not always get it right first time – remember the old saying ‘if you never make a mistake you aren’t trying hard enough!’ so what must be in place is a way of letting people know what is expected of them, what are they really accountable for; be that policies, standards, procedures or whatever your company used to help everyone understand their responsibilities, as well as a control mechanism for managing those policies. How do you make decisions on how the organisation needs to treat its data and information? Who is involved in this process? If you are smart you get people involved who cover large parts of your company – the plot for ‘buy in’ starts here.
Next let’s look at your information architecture, not the vast swathes of detail that sit in your data dictionary (at least not at this point) but the big headings. What are the top 5 to 10 ish headings which describe all the information in your company and (most importantly) who is the one person who could make a decision on each one. This is not about playing the blame game, that just makes individuals hide from any kind of accountability and leads to a kind of company wide whack a mole game. Remember the quote from above ‘if you aren’t making mistakes….’ Your information domain owners are accountable experts in their fields who understand specific areas of information within your business and can give firm direction and decisions in their area. Once you have the highest conceptual level agreed then it’s time to move onto the next level, adding richer detail as you go.
Lastly and definitely not least, how are you going to engage with the company? Where is your network of evangelists coming from who will sell your message? It’s great that you know who can make decisions about the information and that you have clear instructions on how people should treat your company’s data but it really is pointless unless you tell them. Naturally we are talking about mass company wide emails that of course everyone reads every detail of, inwardly digests and miraculously and immediately changes their behaviour…….. in our dreams! This is hearts and minds time here, what is your compelling argument to change, how are you making their life better and what is in it for them that makes it worth changing their behaviour? At the very least tell them what you expect from them.
Get all that right and at least you know you have covered off your basics while you start your journey.
The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook will be published in November by Facet Publishing.
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