As organizations begin realizing the value of data-based decision making, the role of Chief Data Officer (CDO) is undergoing a significant evolution to proactively and effectively manage data assets at an enterprise level.

“Early CDOs were focused on data governance, data quality, and regulatory drivers, but today’s data and analytics leaders are becoming impactful change agents who are spearheading data-driven transformation,” says Gartner’s Research Director, Valerie Logan.

To drive innovation and growth in an organization through informational assets, CDOs must push for an enterprise-wide data-driven culture. They must create an environment where team members aren’t just comfortable with data but are also data-savvy.

So, what’s holding them back? And, as a CDO, what approach should you take to navigate the entire enterprise towards data-driven transformation? Keep reading to find out.

Common Obstacles CDOs Must Overcome

Building an enterprise-wide data-driven culture is exactly where most CDOs are failing. 50% of executives will fail to bring change due to several internal and external factors. Some of these obstacles are detailed below…

Lack of clarity on the CDO role

In most organizations, Chief Data Officer is a relatively new role with no clearly defined priorities, responsibilities, and scope. As such, they lack decision-making authority, which means limited capacity to drive enterprise-wide data strategies.

Limited budget and resources

With no dedicated budget, CDOs often struggle to invest in hiring relevant team members, technology tools, and encouragement programs.

Company culture and resistance to change

A cultural change will likely invite internal resistance. Not everyone in the organization is ready to move away from legacy systems and adapt to change. This new role might also generate conflict and political issues between executive roles, specifically with CIOs and CTOs.

Lack of focus in implementing strategies

The role of CDO is a demanding one that involves everything from data management and data utilization to business analytics. These functions can easily trap CDOs in tactical work. CDOs lose focus on defining and implementing important initiatives that drive company-wide adoption.

Building an Enterprise-Wide Data-Driven Culture

So, how can Chief Data Officers overcome these challenges and guide the organization to become more data-driven? By following the approach outlined here…

Clearly define your role as a CDO

To prevent being engrossed in every data problem, determine the data-driven goals of the enterprise, and set your scope quickly. Identify to whom you’re going to report to and make sure to communicate this to stakeholders actively.

Once you’ve identified the objectives, make all the necessary governance changes for effective data management. Establish a mission statement to achieve the desired goals and build encouragement and adoption programs around it.

Narrowing down the scope and purpose of your role will prevent your data office from becoming a service center. And it will enable you to cultivate strategies for creating data-driven culture across the enterprise.

Improve technology and data governance

As a CDO, you’re also accountable for developing a strategic enterprise data management roadmap. This includes establishing best practices, along with navigating investments in data and analytics technologies.

Any technology you choose, whether it’s Power BI or Power Automate, should align with business objectives and be relevant to the organization’s data maturity level.

Establish a partnership with the CIO

The roles and responsibilities of CIO and CDO often overlap each other. Instead of leading this relationship towards conflicts, as a CDO, consider building a healthy partnership with CIO.

Take advice, share responsibilities, and establish common goals to drive mutual success. Understand that an enterprise cannot become successfully data-driven without leadership teams helping one another.

Increase data accessibility

A true enterprise data environment is only possible when you allow every team member to access data. The first step towards enhanced data accessibility is to integrate data silos that may exist in specific business units of an enterprise.

This integration is possible through educating team members about inconsistencies that exist today in siloed data. It should also involve centralizing technology systems that support the idea of developing a collaborative and silo-free data environment.

Communicate the business value of data

To bring a major cultural change within an organization, you need to engage with business and IT stakeholders. The goal is to inspire every team member to consider data as an asset and understand why change is necessary.

These initiatives can take the form of visioning programs to develop a data-driven mindset, highlighting the actual impact of data-driven culture on business KPIs, and demonstrating how data influences decision-making.

As a Chief Data Officer, you should serve as a change agent. You must constantly reinforce the desire to become a data-driven organization, so all of your team members are bought-in. At the same time, you must also address the cultural change impacts resulting from any new data-driven approach.

Improve data literacy

One of the ways to lead the enterprise towards a data-driven environment is by raising the data literacy of team members. When you improve data literacy rates, you both empower stakeholders with better skills and enable a common data language across the enterprise.

The outcome of this initiative is better collaboration between team members and improved utilization of your data assets.

Measure and scale success

Measuring the financial and productivity benefits of data-based decision-making is a necessary step to generate interest and spark user adoption. Set up clear metrics against your goals to manage your data assets better and become more data-driven.

For example, Gartner recommends six different foundational and financial metrics that include intrinsic value, business value, performance value, cost value, market value, and economic value. Once you define these metrics, build a long term data strategy to replicate success elsewhere in the enterprise.

Due to its transformative nature, being a CDO is one of the most challenging roles in the enterprise. As more businesses continue to invest in data and analytics, there is a tremendous opportunity for Chief Data Officers to demonstrate the value of their position in organizations by driving enterprise-wide data-driven transformation.

At Collectiv, we help CDOs drive enterprise success by fostering data-driven cultures.