Book Review: The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook…

I chanced upon this book The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook while browsing for the latest practices in the realm of product management specific to data science. It helps that the book got released only in Jan 2018 and how emergence of GDPR in coming May 2018 impacts the role

In summary, the book defines the emerging role of CDO in C-suite and the success formula for first-time, second time CDOs. There is clear understanding of contextual, undefined and blurring role of a CDO vis-v-a-vis CIO and its dependence on org and data maturity levels

Why does an Organisation need a CDO?

In short to help drive business strategy in new age which necessitate data usage! Data quality matters more than a data swamp. Improving data governance across the organisation may require a cultural change. CDO role must allow itself to work across functions. CDOs are to be measured against data management, org efficiency, business outcomes, org agility, profitability and revenue. Please note the order is important here!

Secret Ingredients of a CDO

CDO must have narrative power within an org i.e. the ability to pitch at the right level. CDO needs to master the relationship building. Passion is another must-have quality of a CDO

Self-awareness as a CDO

It helps to know one’s talent, strength, weakness, core values, personality and track record. Secret ingredients of a CDO are: relationship building, communication, credibility, passion for data, specialism (expertise), strategist and tactician and being lucky. I however find this list to be applicable for any leadership role in our times!

To successfully work with people who rely more on their intuition / gut-feel to take decisions, evidence-based decision making approach may work better. This is like adding science to the art of decisions!

Difference between CDO and CIO

Bucket analogy for explaining the difference between CIO and CDO: CIO is responsible for bucket and making sure it’s in safe place. CDO is responsible for fluid in the basket and what happens to it!

The author then provides a handy trick to identify duplicate reporting or data. Just switch off the suspect reports for a while and see who in the org complains. If nobody does, it’s probably not needed. I can vouch that this approach works!

The First 100 Days

Focus has to be on understanding what the business does, how it does it, how it’s treating its data and its understanding about the value of data. Also make sure to understand organisation’s heartbeat, what patterns are there to meetings, what meetings you should be part of and thereafter remaining plugged in those meetings. Be ready to have a team, case of change, vision and makings of a strategy. Also identify and deliver on few quick wins soon!

The book then delves into differentiating immediate data strategy (IDS) and target data strategy (TDS). A SWAT team can focus on IDS and more transformational team on TDS. Calling some of the new projects as initiatives helps!

Avoiding the Hype Cycle and Managing Relationships

This aspects is very important, not just for CDO but for any leadership new hire — how to avoid getting trapped into unrealistic expectations? Some of the tips are: excellent communication, incremental value-add as time passes, early delivery of a piece of advanced analytics and managing leadership teams ahead of time by managing / minimizing shocks

To manage relationships with other C-level executives, make sure you set up meetings when you say you will and do what you say you will do. Trust is an important element. Also other stakeholders need to be made understood that data ownership is a shared ownership while accountability cannot be shared. Being accountable means being responsible and being answerable for your actions

Data, Disruption and Innovation

Mainly four aspects can be looked into when evaluating innovation potential of data: disruption in the data itself, positive effect on the balance sheet, developing new revenue streams and future M&As

First-generation and second-generation CDOs need to balance between risk aversion and value addition. FCDOs may also rely more on POCs and IDS to keep stakeholders glued in (remember hype cycle!) and manage risks. SCDOs may also have an opportunity to be truly innovative since good FCDO would have hopefully done his / her job of laying basics well!

Data, Information Ethics and GDPR

Need to consider unintended consequences irrespective of how ethical our intentions are. We also need to consider data aggregation effect when sharing bulk data in public even if it’s not classic PII. Data governance and incoming GDPR also needs to consider availability, usability, integrity and security of data systems

How to value your data?

It’s very important to understand data valuation especially when a CDO wants to tackle data hoarding mentality across the organisation. Different factors which determine data value could be: 1. Are you the only company that has it? 2. How accurate / complete is it? 3. Is it updated? 4. Is is relevant? 5. Can you use it for more than its current usage? 6. Opportunity cost

How to drive change?

Some tips to overcome resistance are: make people understand why they are being asked to do something differently, share the change load with other leaders, paint optimistic picture of the future, communicate vision using org advocates and be careful of what you measure. What you measure drives behavior!

In short, I found this book to be good as an introductory reading for the uninitiated data leadership professionals. Even for those of us who have been in product data / leadership trenches for some time, some of the suggestions could be really useful irrespective of our functions or data maturity

The book is available from Amazon. I could not find it on Flipkart though 😦

PS: Glossary defines 5Vs of Big Data: Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity and Value