How to efficiently integrate a CDO into your organisation

As the importance of data increases, the role that the chief data office (CDO) has to play in an organisation grows, too. Here at Mudano, we help organisations without a CDO to set one up and we enable those with an existing CDO function to optimise their approach. 

Last summer, we wrote a blog post defining the role and responsibilities of a CDO. We stated: 

There is an increasingly pressing need for a leader to understand and advocate data at the highest levels of your organisation – to deliver data-driven growth. This role is the Chief Data Officer.

Today, we’re going to build on the themes in that piece, considering the different ‘generations’ of CDO whilst setting out how a manager a CDO can be efficiently integrated into an organisation. 


Learning from others 

We often joke with clients that they don’t want to be the first in their industry to be building out a CDO. Even though we believe in experimentation and iteration, there is no need to be ‘the canary’. That’s because the CDO pathway has been tested by organisations for many years. 

An organisation looking to implement a CDO can learn from the failings of others and work out which ‘generation’ of CDO is right for them. Regardless of the organisation’s maturity, they can design a data organisation enabled to be a value driver, rather than one that needs to be constantly upgraded. This creates a CDO that suits their needs both today and in the future. 


A generation game 

When establishing or optimising a CDO within an organisation, it’s crucial to know where the organisation is in their CDO journey. We call these different stages ‘generations’. 


Generation 1 – CDO as the bailiff

The organisation’s CDO function is enforcing compliance to rules set by others (for example, risk policies) but, for the most part, the CDO is reactive, reliant on others and has no value-led strategic approach. 

Despite their job title, the CDO is not leading the data conversation and is unable to make a value-led case for data. The role doesn’t feel C-suite. Rather, it’s a role created for policing the approach of others. 


Generation 2 – CDO as the lawmaker 

Here, the CDO’s role is developing, so it is less reactive and in place to define policies and enforce compliance throughout an organisation. However, there is still no value-led strategic approach and they’re heavily reliant on others. 

The CDO is leading data conversations around policy and compliance, but they still feel siloed and the area of impact is small. Hence, they’re falling short of being able to make a step-change difference to the perception of data and how it is being used. 


Generation 3 – CDO as the builder 

The CDO’s role is more influential, defining policies and ensuring compliance throughout an organisation as they become more proactive. They are allowed delivery vehicles through which they are building out their capabilities. 

They are now leading data conversations on compliance and data capability uplift. However, they are still falling short of being able to influence business strategy and they are not driving how data can drive business value.


Generation 4 – CDO as the value-driver

A fourth-generation CDO leads strategic use of data whilst delivering value-led change throughout the organisation. They are now running the right foundational capability. 

The CDO is now leading the data conversation throughout the organisation and is a  driving force who shapes the organisation’s business strategy. They’ve also been given the delivery power to back up the vision and enact change for the business and demonstrate real value. As a result, the CDO’s foundational capability is enabling and driving business value, rather than an arbitrary set of targets. 


Finding what’s right for you 

Now that we understand the different CDO stages, we can think about what generation might best suit your organisation. A CDO must align with your data strategy, but you don’t need to implement it in one go and leap to Generation 4. In fact, you almost certainly shouldn’t. Even if you know the end goal, the best way to get there is by working through the steps that precede it.  

The building and the integration of your organisation’s CDO function should be approached over time. As you develop your capabilities through end-to-end use-cases, you can put in place the organisational structures that deliver and sustain your use-case value goals. By defining your target and incrementing towards it, through business use-cases, you’ll be able to increment towards a value-led CDO target structure. This is what creates long term business value. 


How Mudano can help 

Here at Mudano, we help organisations make changes at the precise point at which that change begins to add value to the business. In the same way, we suggest delivering a data strategy through business value-led use-cases. Organisational change is another part of that journey.

When building out your organisation’s CDO function, we manage this process by, firstly, setting out how you should launch your CDO before working with you to adopt a strategy that evolves, over time, into a fourth-generation CDO. 

We have deep knowledge and experience delivering organisational change for our clients – and if you’d like to find out how we might be able to help you build your CDO, please get in touch. 


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