What role must CDO’s play in today’s new working environment

From pandemic to “pingdemic”, businesses and the workforce in general continue to face a barrage of challenges

Despite this disruption, the overall business response to the pandemic shone a spotlight on the growing value attributed to data-driven insights as businesses of all sizes accelerated digital journeys almost overnight to evolve their data analytic capabilities to thrive and make better more timely decisions through data.

But the exponential year-on-year growth of data available and its growing complexity has left businesses across the UK grappling with a different disruption — that of the significant and well publicised skills gap. Digital literacy in the UK is particularly low, and demand for digital skills far outstrips the supply. A recent report by the UK government estimated that there are around 234,000 roles to be filled which require hard data and IT skills, and almost half of businesses (46%) have struggled to recruit for roles featuring those very same skills which are so essential to successful digital transformation projects.

While many businesses begin to explore hiring a Chief Data Officer (CDO) when an arbitrary financial figure is reached – many more are yet to skim the surface of the data that they have available, and the volume of timely insights which can be drawn from it for business value.

Data Decisions hindered by data literacy: Ultimately, the ability of businesses to make timely decisions is hindered by two factors: A lack of the foundational data literacy required, and the lack of a data leader to take the helm.

New independent research commissioned by Alteryx of over 1,000 UK employees who work with data in large companies, highlights the need for fresh training in this new working environment. Just one third (33%) of UK data workers reported they were confident in their ability to identify trustworthy data, to clean data (36%), and to share it securely (38%), despite three quarters claiming ‘above average’ data skills. Only 23% of those surveyed were able to use their data skills to deliver any business benefit – a significant disconnect between the skills needed to traverse the new digital transformation roadmap.

The role of a CDO in such situations is vital. The CDO will make decisions regarding investments in data teams and analytic capabilities to help make individual digital transformation roadmaps a reality. Their objective is to harness the workforce and ensure everyone is on the same journey. By providing analytics solutions that upskill information workers into data-literate knowledge workers, these knowledge workers – individually and collectively – can drive organisational transformation, too.

The new reality:

While many businesses have reset and responded to the past months by adapting to new realities and working conditions, a problem that had been bubbling for some time came to a head, the analytic divide. This difference between those businesses that can quickly leverage data-driven insights and automate processes in response to major global disruption, and those that cannot has has stalled recovery efforts for many. Investing in data skills and harnessing data-driven insights are now key competencies in ensuring an organization’s agility and confidence when faced with obstacles.

Today’s workforce still remains dispersed, and the workforce culture continues to be remote focused or hybrid at best, but many businesses are still operating a legacy mindset when it comes to managing their data and culture of analytics. Businesses are at a watershed moment where resiliency is intrinsically linked to the ability to thrive, yet with key data literacy and analytic skills missing from the workforce, the speed and trajectory of this recovery journey and the ability to adapt quickly will remain slow.

Businesses are striving to become data-driven and harvest the value this status will bring, but many are still struggling to put data in the hands of the businesspeople who must make use of the insights due to specialists and department heads who silo their data – to protect it and protect themselves through a misguided security-through-obscurity strategy. Although the question of what data should and should not be siloed and what data is or is not suitable for wider use needs to be addressed, the ultimate value in data is when it becomes ubiquitous.

As global advisory firm Gartner notes, the success of a digital-first business now depends on all employees being information workers who can “speak data”, making the ability to identify and communicate key insights vital for company success. With an endless supply of data available to businesses, as an agent of change, the role of the CDO has become vitally important for organisations looking to stay competitive and develop a much-needed data-driven culture.

The CDO as a core cartographer for the digital roadmap:

The end goal for every business is growth, but the path to success has changed dramatically. From the way a company embraces data, harnesses it, and uses it to drive business decisions will impact success now and in the future. Collecting data is one thing, having the right culture and skill sets to digest, understand, and analyse the data for a breakthrough is another. Those looking to match timely insights with the hyperspeed of business will need the analytic capabilities combined with the skilled employees capable of automating data-gathering and analytics processes.

As businesses look for ways to insulate themselves from future shock and deliver new and constantly evolving ways to deliver ROI, the workforce will need to embrace new data skills and technologies to provide insights faster and speed decision making to inform the business. This all mandates the need for a digital cartographer — a CDO — whose role will be to help prioritise the dissemination of data to improve data access and the development of an always-on approach to upskilling and a data culture across the business.

Through spearheading data democratisation across the organisation, a CDO can empower a dispersed hybrid data literate workforce to deliver data-led insights by providing them with the right data tools to make that goal a reality. By providing access to data and analytics through easy-to-use, code-friendly self-service platforms, the CDO can create space for employees who want to upskill and become skilled knowledge workers themselves. Democratising access to these resources puts data science tools into the hands of the people with problems to solve – not exclusively those with years of experience or a specific university degree. This will enable more workers to discover data-driven insights, which are key to driving better real-time decision-making across all functions within a business.



About the Author

Richard Timperlake is Vice President, EMEA at Alteryx. Alteryx unleashes the power of data analytics to help people everywhere solve business and societal problems. As a global leader in analytic process automation (APA), Alteryx unifies analytics, data science and business process automation in one, end-to-end platform to accelerate digital transformation. Organizations of all sizes, all over the world, rely on the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation Platform to deliver high-impact business outcomes and the rapid upskilling of their modern workforce. For more information visit www.alteryx.com.

Featured image: ©Siarhei