Companies across industries have realized that data is their greatest asset. In an ever-growing digital society, a company that can harness its data is far better equipped to drive stronger business decisions, increase revenue, and maintain a competitive advantage.
Some industries, like financial services and healthcare, have assimilated to data innovation demands faster than others due to the sensitivity and importance of the data they’re working with, or because of their regulatory data requirements and investments. However, we’re now at a point in which all industries and companies, even those that have historically been slower to innovate, are embarking on their own data journey and building out their organization accordingly. This includes hiring a Chief Data Officer (CDO). However, according to Gartner, only 50% of CDOs are hailed as a success — why is this?
At SPMB Executive Search, we partner with companies across different industries and stages of their data journey to help them build out their executive data teams. The common thread is that every company’s path to ‘data-enlightenment’, and the talent required to get there, is unique. Every business has its own distinct data challenges to solve for, and varying levels of internal talent to draw from. That said, you need to hire the ‘right’ Chief Data Officer to address these needs and organizational deficiencies. However, data executives run the gamut in terms of their background and core competencies. So how do you choose the right CDO for your business? To start, you must first understand the distinct profiles of today’s data leaders.
The most prevalent profiles of today’s data leaders include:
#1 — The Builder:
The Builder has an engineering degree and has worked in engineering and IT roles throughout their career. Their strengths shine brightest in the technology and metadata layer while having a counterpart under them that’s focused on the analytics/data science layer.
#2 — The Statistician:
The Statistician has a degree in mathematics or science and has worked their way up from data scientist roles into the analytics side of management, and then into the Chief Data Officer role. Unlike the Builder, the Statistician uses their knowledge in the analytics layer. A Statistician’s aptitude is apparent throughout their education and prior roles, and common accolades include published research and even patents.
I have seen data engineering and data analytics under the same leader in some organizations, and separate in others. Together or apart, these two data functions must work closely together as the data engineers are responsible for creating the architecture that supports data scientists’ needs. The desired result is that both functions produce clean data that provides insights into critical business decisions.
#3 — The Business Strategist:
The Business Strategist is less common than the Builder or the Statistician. This type of CDO has a non-technical degree or business-focused role—including finance, strategy, and consulting—before moving into the world of data. Their background typically reflects their strength in the metalayer. The Business Strategist also possesses an innate ability to drive strategic and tactical planning for data acquisition, data usage, and data management activities within the business. In this data organization structure, it’s critical to have a sturdy technical team and mid-level leaders. This structure can be very powerful if you have a talented engineering or data scientist leader who might lack those visionary, operational leadership traits of the Business Strategist.
It’s exciting to see businesses today use data to not only drive smarter business decisions but also to create a seamless customer and employee experience at scale. The use of data opens doors for these companies to find new ways to be more effective and efficient while saving money, increasing employee retention, and adding lifetime customers.
Hiring the correct Chief Data Officer for your business can seem daunting, but understanding the different profiles—the Builder, Statistician, and Business Strategist—will help you pinpoint the right hire based on your organization’s needs. In particular, where are you on your data journey, and what existing talent can you draw from? This analysis can help align your data organization’s needs with your potential CDO’s strengths.
No matter what type of Chief Data Officer you pursue, their ability to drive change across the organization by aligning their shared efforts with business leaders (to drive measurable business outcomes) will be key to their success.
If you’re looking to hire a Chief Data Officer or seeking general advice on the market, please contact me directly or visit SPMB.com.