On 28th September, a group of CDOs and data leaders from across Credera's client community gathered for the inaugural Credera CDO community dinner at Soho House to discuss the challenges of building and executing an effective data strategy. The conversation was chaired by Ian Thomas, Credera CDO, and Claire Harrison, Chief Digital/Technology officer at MHRA, who shared some of her thoughts and experiences in leading MHRA's efforts to do more with data.
The elements of a successful data strategy
The group agreed that a data strategy needs to be founded on two things: a strong connection to the core business strategies of the organisation, and strong support from executive leadership. As one of the CDOs remarked: "Business strategy is data strategy." Data strategies that are built without this strong executive support and business outcomes connection tend to focus on the creation of "passive value" in data - making it more discoverable/accessible, of higher quality, and easier to consume in various forms. This can be useful, but it does not enable more strategic questions of data ownership and value creation to be addressed.
To address this issue, the group also discussed how a data strategy can achieve a strong connection to business outcomes and use cases, unlocking specific "active value" by supporting the objectives of data users and stakeholders. For an organisation with a strong digital presence, data can drive value by enabling and enhancing those digital experiences - for example, by supporting personalisation or automation. The goals of these digital products can be placed front and centre in the strategy.
In organisations without such a strong digital footprint, however, this is harder to achieve. Instead, the data strategy needs to focus on the creation and nurturing of data literacy within stakeholder groups. The group discussed whether an organisation needs to hire STEM-educated specialists to provide this embedded data competency, and agreed that it wasn't entirely necessary. Indeed, individuals with a humanities background can often provide significant value because they have a background in critical thinking and question formulation - both essential for effective analytics. Read next: Credera Names Ian Thomas UK Chief Data Officer
The role of the CDO
Inevitably, the discussion turned to the role of the CDO, and whether a CDO is even necessary in order for an organisation to pursue an effective data strategy. The consensus was that a CDO (or CDO-equivalent) individual and function is needed for any data strategy to have a decent chance of actually being implemented. However, there was less agreement around where the CDO should sit in the organisation, and what their remit (and the remit of the "office of the CDO") should be - particularly around execution of technology/data platform build-out.
The group agreed that it is very rare for a CDO to have complete control over execution of data platform investments (with much of this living within technology or cloud enablement teams). In many organisations, the office of the CDO must sit at the centre of a decentralised group of stakeholders and partners who participate and collaborate in the shared creation of value around data. That being said, there was little enthusiasm for defining the role of the CDO as solely a "Chief Analytics Officer."
Following the success of our inaugural event, the group look forward to discussing other topics in our next CDO roundtable dinner, which will take place early next year.
Are you a CDO who is interested in coming along to the next event? Email email@example.com to be added to our waiting list.