A high-powered group of data leaders gathered again at Soho House in London on the 21st of March for our second CDO dinner – an opportunity for CDOs to discuss the topics that they are grappling with as they seek to drive value from data within their organisations.
This time, our conversation was led by Karine Serfaty, former CDO at The Economist Group, ITV, and The New York Times, who shared her experiences and recommendations on how to drive change within the organisation from the position of CDO. Karine had four key pieces of advice:
Become a credible, independent voice – the “Switzerland” of the organisation – by offering a consistent representation of the business via its data and treating stakeholders fairly.
Build 360-degree influence by building and supporting allies and champions and using them to amplify your message.
Push back when you need to: You don’t always have to be “nice” – particularly when requirements are poorly articulated or inconsistent.
Never let a crisis go to waste: Appreciation of data teams is often forged in times of crisis when data and insights are disproportionately valuable in helping to understand and measure progress against fixing the problem. Use these opportunities to remind stakeholders of the importance of the function.
The attendees, which included data leaders from Aviva, ADSS, and the BBC, shared their own experiences of building trust and an influence network within their organisations. A key enabler that emerged was the value of consistent, easy-to-use data products, which can help empower data business partners and reduce the technical skills needed to extract insights on-demand.
The group agreed that these data business partners need to be co-creators of the data products they use, ensuring they have “skin in the game” rather than just having the products foisted on them. They also spoke about how they had benefited from embedded/dedicated analytics support to help them formulate their data questions and needs.
The data team itself, meanwhile, needs to provide proper data product management to ensure data products are treated like the valuable business assets they are. In particular, the importance of effective change/release management was discussed: if a data product changes in a meaningful way, then this implies a change process for all individuals and processes that use that product, and they will need to be helped through the change. However, this change management is non-trivial and can consume a lot of time, which generated a debate about whether it should be a centralised service or devolved to individual teams.
Finally, we discussed the importance of consistency and trustworthiness of data products. Ensuring users are confident about the lineage and quality of data is essential, as is making it easy to understand the definitions of the metrics and dimensions within a dataset. Treating these elements as product “features” that need to be understandable, consistent, and dependable dramatically increases the utility of the products and ensures their broad adoption.
The energy and enthusiasm of the conversation reminded us how valuable it can be to bring likeminded people together to discuss their common challenges – as one attendee said at the end of the evening, “It’s so nice to spend an evening with my people.”
Are you a CDO who is interested in coming along to the next event? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our waiting list.