Lines in the sand: what the introduction of a CDO can mean to working practices

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Posting date: 1/16/2015 3:57 PM

Introducing New Practices

The introduction of a new methodology into a business structure should, in theory at least, be about the simple integration of a new practice into an existing framework. The truth is that this is rarely simple. Over the weeks, months and sometimes years of development of something such as information and data distribution systems they will naturally develop a set of practice based functionalities. Commonly (despite how this can feel at the time) these structures are in fact perfectly sound and probably just require minor adjustments to make them fit new circumstances. At other times due to either internal or external pressures such as changes in the market, technological advances or organic development and growth, the systems can be in need of a more radical change. In either case issues can arise within the distribution of responsibility for the specifics of the infrastructure.

The introduction of the position of Chief Data Officer (or CDO) in a large business environment is very likely to be a catalyst for change. As discussed in a previous article the role of the CDO is varied at times; but it does have a very specific set of common elements. One certain commonality in the role is the need for the CDO to oversee the collation of systems and data flow processes into the larger ‘whole’ of the business. This will very likely require a redistribution of responsibility. 

One potential area of contention for example could be the methods and aims of the data engineers and associated colleagues compared to those of the technologists and hardware related areas. Clearly these are associated and intimately linked in that, to state the obvious, they have a symbiotic relationship with the flow of data from storage to user but these are often different departments with disparate operational procedures and methodologies. To the CDO however they will need to be seen as an operational component of the wider system. That means specific lines will need to be drawn to ensure efficient use of resources and the effective utilisation of the data. In short the poor CDO may find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to disentangle a complex weave of different threads of operations. Once this is done he can then set about the equally arduous task of re-weaving them into a new structure.

Reweaving The Threads

Clearly a moments thought informs us that there is not going to be a quick fix for this, and no one size fits all plan is available. For the new CDO one of the first tasks will be to clearly understand the roles and responsibilities of the team and, with long term and deeply embedded working practices, this is not likely to be a matter of reading the job descriptions. Once the system is understood then the redistribution of workflow and responsibility can commence. 

Of course the CDO will be responsible for more than the mechanics of the situation. All business has people at the heart of the operations and a good CDO will understand this. Team player and leadership qualities may well be just as important to the new CDO as his technical and managerial skills when it comes to forging his position in the structure.

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