Your First Chief Data Officer

If knowledge is power, hiring your company’s first Chief Data Officer (CDO) may be the shortest path to a competitive advantage.  According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, you hire a Chief Data Officer in order to compete with data.

First Chief Data OfficerThat first Chief Data Officer will likely need data scientists,  and eventually a data lab, and a data factory — respectively one place to do longer term, innovative, out-of-the box thinking, and the other place to do more process-focused data analytics aimed at more immediate results.

Hiring your first Chief Data Officer also involves significant change management.  Your leadership, divisions, departments, and teams will need to be prepared to share their information. The walls of organizational silos must come down. In addition, when the Chief Data Officer serves up actionable intelligence, leadership must be prepared, after all, to act.  That action can bring about seismic shifts as your company morphs into an entity that is more competitive.

The place to begin is by how you think about data: where it exists and how it might be used.  Ask yourself what entities capture data specific to your business. In my former career as an investigative journalist, I learned that virtually every time a person interacts with the government, a record is created: that’s data. Today, virtually every time we interact with an electronic device, a record is created — every time we turn on our cell phone, send an email, visit a website, or scan in our credit card at the corner store. In addition to the data that your company captures, there are other data that are available for acquisition. Think about all the insights the data might hold. (More on this later.)

According to David Simchi-Levi, professor of engineering systems at MIT and head of the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics,  big data analytics addresses four kinds of questions:

  1. Descriptive: Tell me what happened.
  2. Diagnostic: Don’t just tell me what happened, tell me why it happened.
  3. Predictive: Tell me what will happen.
  4. Prescriptive: Tell me how I can I make it happen.

But there is one last question that CEOs must ask themselves as they consider the implications of the tsunami of data that is now available.

Tell me what happens if one my top competitors hires a Chief Data Officer first?

Since knowledge is power, the answer is obvious. Your competitor will have gained a significant competitive advantage. That is why a growing number of CEOs are deciding the time for their first Chief Data Officer has come.

 

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