What’s the one thing that makes a great chief data officer or data leader?
Well, it’s not the data, nor the typical passion most data leaders have for big data sets, new storage solutions and the latest algorithms. It’s their business acumen.
A great chief data officer is focused on business and doesn’t make it about the data, analytics or the technology. Those are just the tools that help them solve business issues and create business opportunities.
Although the majority of data leaders have a background in data science, they won’t get very far with the rest of the organisation if they aren’t able to speak a common language, and that common language is business.
Great Data Professionals Are Renaissance Leaders
Great data leaders first identify the most strategic challenges and business questions that need to be resolved for the company. Although they collaborate with other execs and leaders in the company, chief data officers and data leaders are the bridge that helps make the connexions between the business issues and opportunities and how data might be able to help provide solutions. These data professionals not only have solid business skills, they are also highly informed about the particular industry they work in.
The most successful data leaders I have worked with are those that are able to frame their priorities around things such as delivering better customer service, better understanding market opportunities, improving internal business processes, driving efficiency, generating new income streams and ultimately increasing profits and shareholder value. These are the business concerns that data can influence. Successful data leaders don’t collect data for the sake of collecting data, instead, they know what they are looking for and how it can make a difference to the company’s insights, efficiencies and success.
These professionals are adept innovators and uncover opportunities to drive change that will result in a better market position and a competitive advantage. They understand the business model and can recommend shifts that result in positive momentum. They start with the most strategic business success metrics and identify how their projects can influence them. After that, they are able to determine the data and analytics tools required to answer those key business questions.
Successful data leaders clearly connect any of their top priorities and initiatives with strategic business goals. Just like their high-performing colleagues in other areas such as finance and human resources, data leaders link what they do to measurable business results and some of the strategic key performance indicators for the business.
Data leaders who don’t have a strategic business focus are like the captain of a plane who just gets really excited about playing around with all the dials and dashboard controls, but has no idea where the plane is or its final destination. Successful data leaders use their passion for data to propel the organisation to achieve its key business objectives.
Great Data Professionals Are Great with Other People
As mentioned, data professionals are the bridge between the business units and tech team, but they also have to work with, persuade and get buy-in from every area of the organisation. A data leader helps others in the organisation understand the potential applications of data for their particular department to enhance performance and to create success. The ability to build trusted relationships is a crucial skill-set of any successful data leader.
Where to go from here
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Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.