First 100 Days of a Chief Data Officer

Gartner’s roadmap includes steps for CDOs to succeed in their new role.

Chief data officers (CDOs) are responsible for a broad agenda that spans data management, analytics, data science, ethics and digital transformation. They are impactful change agents leading the data-driven transformation of their organizations. Given the fast pace of digital business transformation, more than 10,000 companies already have appointed executives to this role. So how do new CDOs take on this challenging position and succeed?

The first 100 days constitute a “honeymoon” period. Within this brief period CDOs must establish themselves and create perceptions that others will associate with their subsequent actions.

Use face-to-face meetings to build a strong understanding of the business and rapport with key stakeholders

Debra Logan, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner, explains that preparing and communicating a clearly phased plan is critical. “You will need to create high-level and detailed plans for key activities that include benchmarks and measurements to show progress and accomplishments,” she says.

In today’s workforce, 51% of CDOs report directly to a top-level executive manager, with 29% accountable directly to the CEO. By 2021, the CDO role will be the most gender-diverse of all technology-affiliated C-level positions, with 33% being female compared to 18% today.

Gartner breaks down the CDO’s objectives into a 100-day roadmap. Each phase includes critical target outcomes, actions and resources, as well as some optional ideas to consider as time and resources allow.

Gartner's roadmap for a chief data officer's first 100 days.

Prepare

Set up meetings with your team and key business and IT leaders before you join, and prepare a set of introductory materials about your experience. If you are a veteran in the business and have moved into the CDO role, make sure you briefly review your experience. Demonstrating that you understand “how things work around here” is crucial.

Assess

Use face-to-face meetings to build a strong understanding of the business and rapport with key stakeholders. Devote at least 50% of your time to meeting these stakeholders to explain the CDO role, and how it will help them meet their business-critical objectives.

A list of no more than five thoughtful questions will be more valuable than trying to cover everything. Pay close attention to chronic pain points and previous failures and actively solicit feedback on perceptions of the CDO and other data-based roles. Also try to get a sense of how the CIO and IT organization are regarded in the business.

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Plan

The plan phase turns lessons learned from the “prepare” and “assess” phases into a blueprint for action. Share a vision with your team, line managers and the original business stakeholders you interviewed. Support this with an assessment of how the organization compares with your vision and outline how you will close the gap. Remember to phrase these objectives in terms of the business key performance indicators (KPIs) that are important to the goals set by executives and managers.

Act

Meet with your operational teams to define their scope of operation and consider performance metrics. Ask what you can do to help them succeed. Conduct a senior management status meeting and develop a quarterly schedule. These will be some of the most valuable meetings you have. Keep the agenda simple:

  • What are you going to do during this period?
  • What is the business value for the actions you are planning to address?
  • What business value would the executive team like you to deliver during the next period?

The executive team will determine how to integrate your needs into their strategy and must make clear their view on what constitutes success. This will give you clear objectives and structure for future meetings.

Measure

You must articulate the business value of your project teams’ efforts, so regular progress report meetings should focus on the information most relevant to business and finance leaders.

This article has been updated from the original, published on January 25, 2016, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

Gartner clients can read more in the report “The Chief Data Officer’s First 100 Days” by Debra Logan.

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