It’s no secret that one of the key contributing factors in the advent of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) role was the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent regulatory scrutiny faced by financial institutions, particularly in the United States.
As a result, early CDOs were tasked with ensuring that financial services firms had well-governed, high-quality and legally compliant data. This ‘defensive’ function of the CDO has been much-written about.
There was a suggestion, though, that this perception of the CDO role having an end goal – namely, compliance – would mean that the position would be seen as interim, with CDOs serving one (crucial) purpose on a relatively short-term basis, and then moving onto pastures new.
However, following recent conversations with some financial service CDOs who have either recently left a post or started a fresh role, I started to wonder just how accurate this short-term tag had been.
So, I undertook a very quick survey. I looked at 25 current or former CDOs who had all held at least 2 posts within financial services firms.
I found that the average tenure amongst the sample was 29.2 months. In a similar sample of non-financial service CDOs, I found that the average tenure was 29.4 months.
Perhaps, then, it isn’t just financial sector CDOs being perceived as a short-term solution. Instead, they are on the exact same adoption curve as other CDOs, experiencing the same level of turnover to be expected with a role in its infancy.
This then got me considering what can be done for CDOs to prolong their tenure at their organisations (should they wish to!) and it comes back to the defensive and offensive functions once again. Rightly or wrongly, to convince their superiors of their value to the organisations, CDOs must continually deliver on innovation.
As a healthcare CDO told me in a recent interview, CDOs must continually deliver success, over and over again. There will be failures along the way, but you must continually deliver success.
Therefore, for financial services CDOs, they must, of course, ensure that their organisation’s data is well governed and compliant but CDOs cannot rest there. They then have to attack. Whether their plan of attack is helping to improve data analytics and insights for greater customer understanding and retention, using data to build a new product to increase revenue or analysing internal processes to cut costs, CDOs must innovate.
Ensuring that Data Governance is understood and remains relevant to the business is a monumental task in itself but the real challenge lies in moving from Governor to Innovator, so to secure the long-term success and stability of the CDO role.
We will be exploring both of these challenges in great detail in Europe and the U.S. in the next 8 weeks, with contributions from the CDOs who are on the forefront of these issues. For more information on Europe, please click here and for more information on the U.S., please click here.
By Adam Plom
Adam Plom is the Global Head of Content for the CDO Forum. Adam has organised numerous CDO Forums in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia and recently featured in a Financier Worldwide magazine interview, titled: The Evolution of the CDO, as well as co-authoring The Chief Data Officer Forum Review. For enquiries, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.