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.


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.