Insights Blog

Free your data: how CDOs can be limited by bad tech

This is the CDO Journey

The CDO role is critical for any organization but it doesn’t come without its challenges. In this blog we pull some key insights from our new study The Journey to CDO to uncover:

– How legacy tech is causing a headache
– What skills should CDOs be looking for in their teams? 

As it’s become more and more obvious over recent years that business data and analytics play a fundamental role in achieving optimum business performance, the demand for data leaders within a company has intensified.

For the most forward-thinking companies, that meant turning to a Chief Data Officer (CDO). From governance and compliance to influencing overall business strategy, the CDO is seen as a specialist in translating and delivering real value from data. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 65% of companies now have a permanent CDO in place, rising from 12% just under a decade ago in 2012.

Yet despite this, there is still much confusion and uncertainty about the CDO role, specifically in terms of defining exactly what it covers and how it is perceived by others. MIT Sloan research suggests that the CDO is properly established in less than a third (30%) of organizations.

Our new report, The Journey to CDO, has been created to provide clarity in place of the uncertainty. It explores the expectations surrounding the CDO position, the surprising variety of career backgrounds those in the role come from, and the challenges facing them.

In this blog, we want to explore two of those challenges: legacy technology and data literacy, both of which are holding CDOs back from achieving their full potential.

Outdated tech is tying CDO hands

Almost half (48%) of CDOs say they are held back by legacy applications, and 46% say outdated data management infrastructures as well as scale and data volumes are a problem. What’s more, 34% of CDOs in Germany claim that organizations don’t have the technology stack required for a CDO to excel, and this rises to 44% for those in the UK.

Without budgetary power to change the state of play, this can leave the CDO unable to perform at their maximum, rendering them incapable of unleashing the full power of data within their business. The study uncovered that CDOs often find it challenging to fulfil their role effectively if they don’t have control over infrastructure budgets, as it’s difficult for them to remove outdated technology systems.

Given that this can be an unbreachable barrier for data liberation, it can be a serious point of contention.

And this relates directly to the second challenge we wish to address here, the ongoing issue of data literacy.

Data for all

The role of the CDO is no longer about simply governing data, but liberating it, improving data accessibility and literacy across all levels of the organization. Only businesses who can effectively capture, organize and communicate data throughout and beyond their organizations will enjoy the full benefits that it can deliver.

In this respect some businesses are suffering from tunnel vision, only hiring CDOs from purely technical backgrounds. There’s an assumption that those without a mathematical, scientific or computing background are not suitable for the CDO role: the report finds that 73% of CDOs come from a technical background, while just 3% come from an arts or creative one.

However, this risks missing out on some of the most compelling storytellers in the business, who can communicate the importance of data and its insights in the most effective way. Candidates from diverse backgrounds, such as HR, marketing and philosophy, are often better-equipped to handle the human element, translating data into insights and business results that engage and influence stakeholders and improve data literacy in the process.

Looking to the future

Given the incredible potential value that data holds for businesses, brave data leadership is as important as it ever has been. At a time when data-driven companies consistently outperform their peers, a strong CDO can make the difference between success and failure.

But even the best CDOs cannot perform if they are held back by technological or logistical challenges. The solution is to talk. Regular, open dialogue between CDOs and their employers, or future employers, is crucial to ensure the right measures are in place that enable them to do the best job they can and unleash the full potential of data and analytics within the business.