So why does any organisation need a Chief Data Officer?

Authors: Caroline Carruthers, Chief Data Officer Network Rail, and Peter Jackson, Head of Data The Pensions Regulator

So why does any organisation need a Chief Data Officer? If it’s at the right level it is a big investment and they aren’t going to just come on their own, a team of some sort, even sourced from positions within the organisation, will cause disruption and potentially add cost and the company got along just fine without one before, right?

Or did they? We now have access to more data than ever before and we have all become kleptomaniacs when it comes to fact and figures. It doesn’t cost us much to keep it so why not keep it all – just in case. Only having so much of it means that not only can we not see the wood for the trees, we don’t value the wood anymore. We have lost the focus on why we are collecting data, what are we hoping to get from it and what benefits can we derive from it? In essence what are we going to get from it and why do it in the first place?

This ties into the concept of the information value chain; how does the information you use link into the value chain for the organisation? What end result are you expecting and what do you need to get there? This isn’t just about using the five whys, don’t stop at five, start asking question and don’t stop. The focus has to be on delivery and benefit. If collecting the data doesn’t deliver benefit – stop doing it! Keep your limited resources focused on doing what gives you benefits. The CDO gives you this clarity and direction for your focus.

All of this is before you stop and look at the small mistakes that are happening on a daily basis that, when you add them all up, are costing your company time and money that you don’t want to waste. To give you a simple example, if someone in your sales department enters the wrong company name in the billing name field on the CRM such as ACME Ltd rather than ACME (UK) Ltd so an invoice is raised on 90 day payment terms for the wrong company and you don’t find out until day 89. So because the sales team made a tiny error it has cost the company 90 days cash flow. Or how about reputational damage because you stake your reputation on flawed data that you were convinced was right?

There are no single, big easy reason to convince you to hire your first CDO but there are a million small ones that are happening every day – those are the reasons to hire your CDO.


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