The CDO – Overseeing The Next Big Jobs Growth

As we approach the threshold of the next big phase of jobs growth, it is becoming clear that one C-Level role could well be in the middle of the fair majority of this growth. By virtue of this, they will need to be as in tune with the jobs market as their impact on the business.

The Chief Data Officer, or CDO, sits at a strategic position in an organisation. As the curator and wrangler of one of the most important (and until recently, though, largely not properly maintained) assets, they will be as critical to strategic success, if not more, than the COO or CIO. This is incredible to see, given there was really no concept of data as a business asset up until only several years ago

So now what? Firstly, there is increasing recognition of the importance to retain, manage and manipulate data as an asset, structure it in a far more strategic and decision-influencing way and use it as a predictor for where the business is, where it’s going and what the competition is doing.

Secondly, the need to facilitate this new enthusiasm for data and bringing together the talent to properly utilise it is now down to the new position of CDO.

What happens now really can point to success or otherwise of an organisation’s data policy. Here are 4 points all CDO’s, or those aspiring to the role need to keep in mind.

1. Know The Market

Putting together an idea of what the talent market is like in data management is perhaps more difficult than most other areas of the organisation. Where clear ideas on the available talent within the likes of Finance or Marketing or IT are readily available, pulling information on the market in the data space is not so detailed.

For starters – and this is more pointedly aimed at the Australian market, it is a relatively brand new area. Aside from some hybridity with IT, the more focused analysis and analytics are the new tenants in the data warehouse (see what I did there?).

Then there is largely unfamiliarity with this emerging (or emerged) offering for business, leading to the simple ‘don’t know’ when market questions are asked.

The CDO has a great opportunity to corner market knowledge, to understand exactly who is doing what and where the data trends are heading. Put all of this together, and the CDO is starting off well.

2. Know The Person

Who makes a great employee and what does the CDO need to be aware of when hiring?

Technical skills are, of course, vital. Thorough experience, clear knowledge of relevant toolsets and a background that offers evidence of competency paint a good picture of how an individual will apply themselves to the role, and offer the CDO solid information to base hiring decisions on.

So, this is the only thing that should be considered when hiring, right?

Yes…and no.

Thing is, the data structure of an organisation bridges front and back end development, as well as having more than a passing requirement for external stakeholder contact – at times over and above that of their cousins in IT.

This is why a proper (and thorough) examination of a potential candidate’s fit into an organisation is needed. Cultural fit, the ‘soft’ skills (communication, interpersonal, presentation) and attitude all go towards profiling the best candidate. CDO’s need to have this knowledge in their arsenal to properly and effectively build their teams.

3. Know The Roles

What makes a great Data Analyst? An awesome Data Scientist? Modeller? BI Architect? ETL Developer? Report Writer? Or any other role, for that matter? There is no straight answer to that question, as there are so many variables. As CDO, the role of knowing what will work for their organisation is the first rule in identifying what is the best employee.

These roles will ultimately point the organisation in the direction of their data strategy. Yet, without this properly defined, the chances of the CDO impacting overall business transformation will be slim. It should come as no surprise that the CDO must have the ‘finger on the pulse’ of how roles impact this.

4. Know The Future.

What do you mean you don’t have a crystal ball? Shouldn’t that be in the pocket of every CDO (and technically every C-level)?!

Nice though it would be, knowing the future is fraught with danger. I mean, how many of us would’ve thought we would be even discussing a CDO role 10 years ago…even 5? Not all of us did – but some others recognised where data management was heading and worked to make businesses ready for it.

For the purposes here, the CDO will need to have a real eye for what is happening and be prepared to jump on new tech, or practices or methodologies to embrace the new wonders of data management. The general rule here would be stay on top of the industry and you won’t get left behind.

Finally…

The bottom line to all of this is if businesses really will go down the CDO path. There are many views one way or the other as to if this will be a universally held position. Thing is, though, if there is to be any constructive focus on data management in the future, getting the resourcing basics right will prepare any business for the new world of data. The way CDOs find talent will be the next big challenge. How they do it and what help they get will be the difference between a fantastic talent pool and a data program going nowhere.

Change management

Change is constant. With innovations in technology, changes in markets and methodologies, the corporate landscape is constantly evolving. It only makes sense that business adapt to these changes or get left behind.

Indeed, the business that adapt the quickest often carve out a competitive edge for themselves, while the ones mired in the inertia of the old ways, languish behind.

As Prof. Rosabeth M. Kanter of Harvard Business School noted, successful companies have “a culture that just keeps moving all the time”. Change is often arduous and beset by uncertainties and fear. It’s human nature to relish stability. Especially the sort of stability that saw a business through years of profit and efficiency. Why rock the boat when there’s been nothing but smooth sailing?

Of course the reality is, the tides have turned. The same stability that was once an asset is now a liability. Herein lies a fundamental component of change management – convincing employees (from senior executives all the way down that change is necessary.

When it comes down to it, businesses don’t change, people do. There are many different change management implementation frameworks but in a nutshell, the following needs to take place.

The first step is a reality check; a brutally honest look at what needs to change, as well as communicating this to all levels of the organization. Because change needs to occur at the lowest individual level, all the way up.

Then comes implementation. This involves communicating, very clearly and to all levels of the organization, the overarching vision of the change. This is to ensure that there is no disconnect between the expectations of the employees and the anticipated change. If employees do not agree or fully grasp the logic behind the change, then there will be real problems in implementing such a change.

It is imperative that the change is owned by everyone, from the CEO and senior executives, all the way down the rung of the corporate ladder. Change is not something to be delegated, like project management. It is a process that everyone needs to embrace for it to be successful.

For example, in 2004 when Shell implemented Downstream­One, it was abundantly clear that the change programme started and ended with its new group chairman.

Moreover, this example illustrates another necessary aspect of successful change management: the importance of good leadership, not to command that change just happens, but like all good leaders, to lead by example.

Embracing change will also put leaders in a unique position to empathize with employee concerns and provide the necessary support during the implementation process.

Of course there are other aspects that must be taken into consideration. Change management is not a one size fits all approach. A change management program must take into consideration the unique idiosyncrasies of a particular organization, adjusting the program to work with their particular strengths and weaknesses.

There must also be a clear road map to success, one that takes into account a realistic time frame and that also celebrates small wins on the road to change.

In many ways, change management is similar to a person ditching unhelpful old habits and replacing them with new, healthier ones, obviously on a much larger and more complicated scale. However, it is prescient to note the analogy as organizational change management often encounters similar obstacles to success.

Time, communication and measured changes, as well as ownership of change from all levels, is crucial to the goal of true change.

How to make ‘offshoring’ work for you

Love it or loathe it, offshoring in the telecommunications industry is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. However, offshoring is not always the best way to cut costs. It’s true that by outsourcing activities such as software architecture, operations and even R&D, technology companies can become more competitive. But significant savings can also be made by outsourcing to a local company that has the right skills and cost structure.

The pressure on telecommunications companies to develop new technologies while simultaneously reducing spending is immense. This is due in no small part to the rapid rate of digital transformation. Yesterday’s fanciful idea quickly becomes today’s must have. In this environment, we are seeing remarkable advances in the internet of things (IoT), big data, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), to name but a few.

Each of these innovations promises – or threatens – to have a huge impact on the telecommunications industry. For a start, they all demand faster processing times and more bandwidth. In its report VR and AR: The Real Deal! Cisco predicts VR and AR traffic to increase by 127% per annum until 2020. Meanwhile, traffic forecasters already talk in terms of Petabytes (the number 1 followed by 15 zeroes) and Exabytes, which are 1000 times larger.

For industry players responding to these requirements, offshoring has the obvious benefit of cost reduction. Some argue that it can also improve quality and effectiveness. On the other hand, offshoring also raises questions about security, customer service and the loss of local jobs.

There is also the issue of unexpected costs, which can arise due to:

  • The process of selecting a supplier
  • Travel for liaison and supervision
  • Transitioning to an offshore model
  • Local redundancies
  • Ramping up with new suppliers
  • More expensive management processes

The online magazine CIO.com has long argued that these costs can add between 16% and 65% to an offshored IT project.

As a professional services supplier to the telecommunications industry, Hidden Cove is familiar with this debate. Our guiding principle in business is “enabling the success of others” and we apply this when it comes to offshoring.

We see ourselves as a quiet haven of creative talent and cost-effective results. In practical terms, this means our clients can choose to make savings and innovate by outsourcing to a local supplier. An added advantage is that all client contact – including support – is conducted by our local staff.

It’s not a matter of offshoring or not. Rather, it’s about ‘right-shoring’, or knowing when to offshore and when to keep it local.