Oh Hey, It’s Graduation Day! #CDOSummerSchool

Black Woman Wearing a Mortar Throwing Confetti — Photo by Joshua Mcknight from Pexels
Black Woman Wearing a Mortar Throwing Confetti — Photo by Joshua Mcknight from Pexels

Join me for a recap of the graduation ceremony of #CDOSummerSchool #DataLiteracy.

Last week, at the graduation ceremony of the 2020 class of Chief Data Officer Summer School, Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson were joined by Felix Van de Maele, Cofounder, CEO of Collibra and Jennifer Daniell Belissent, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research.

It’s been a journey and even at the end of the free six week masterclass, the dynamic duo kept on giving. We’ve had key insights along the way into being the best Chief Data Officer. Last week we went that one step further.

Who’s we exactly? Around 500 data leaders who’ve built their confidence, learnt the secrets to being an effective Chief Data Officer and made essential connections to thrive as change makers and leaders in their organisation’s data revolution.

Now without further ado, here’s how we graduated. First up, was Felix Van de Maele, Cofounder, CEO of Collibra, our gracious co-hosts for CDO Summer School. Felix covered the current situation in the data industry. Triggered by the global pandemic, the June 2020 Global Economic Prospects forecasts a contraction in global GDP for 2020.

Despite a corresponding drop in technology spending, Felix predicts that data and analytics spend will be one of the first to recover as we move out of the pandemic. You, the Chief Data Officer, are also in demand. Your skills, your knowledge, your ability to manage change and help organisations get the most value out of their data are key needs in every industry.

Felix’s insights are mirrored by Gary Drenik’s Forbes article What Role Does External Data Play In A Post-Pandemic Market? Here the nuances of the pandemic problems with data are revealed: it’s not a quantity issue, more of a quality, pipeline, skills, literacy and joining up issue. So how do we wrest the value of out data? By being data-driven, data-supported, data-led? None of the above says Jennifer Daniell Belissent, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research.

Success for organisations depends a lot on data but more on outcomes. Which brings us nicely to Jennifer’s exceptional presentation on being outcomes-driven.

In ‘Why data strategy fails and how you can get it right’, I share why an isolated data strategy fails when the business doesn’t have a clear strategy. Without a focus and alignment behind outcomes and especially now with the world changed by the pandemic, Jennifer asks if your organisation is sinking, treading water or swimming?

We know that data and analytics are key investments and not just in the technology, but also in the people — generalists who don’t work in data and specialists that do. However, data and analytics are pillars that support success where the base is the mission, values and strategy of the organisation.

To succeed Jennifer claims that organisations must use insights not just data, build communities of people who are literate with data so everyone can derive insight and to keep expanding this community and awareness to deliver value. Let’s examine why this is so important, less with rhetoric and more with some facts and figures.

Jennifer shared that 85% of organisations want to use data and insights to support their decision making but 91% find this challenging with only half of key decisions made using opinion and gut-feelings. So what are organisations doing to change this? 65% of organisations are hiring a Chief Data Officer or similar data leader though the name might vary. No matter what they’re called, who they report to is changing — data is moving out of IT and into the boardroom and reporting to the CEO. Data belongs in the boardroom.

data insights leadership roles proliferate © Forrester Research

Data leadership is more than just a nice to have. 68% of high performing companies (the ones that are swimming) have a data leadership role embedded in their organisation according to Forrester’s research. This is compared to 53% of medium performing companies (those treading water) and just 51% of low performing companies — those sadly sinking.

In the upcoming battle out of global contraction, a Chief Data Officer is key player on your team. However, culture and a willingness to engage plays a role too. To help your company succeed:

  1. Invest in data and analytics, it won’t come cheap but it is indispensable
  2. Hire data leadership positions
  3. Give everyone the tools they need to use data effectively especially data literacy
  4. Be outcomes driven, what can data help you deliver?

Jennifer deep dived into a Q&A that I’d love to cover here but that would be a whole other article in and of itself. Suffice to say, we learnt a lot of practical lessons, augmented by tips from our dynamic duo hosts.

It wasn’t all presentations, talks and lessons. The chat was alive with connections and ideas. We had a lovely video from people who’d journeyed with us recounting what they learnt as part of the six weeks. One person even secured a role as a Chief Data Officer!

Graduation day was bittersweet. Full of useful connections, insights and lessons but also a goodbye to one of the most valuable leadership masterclasses for people like us. Those helping to shape the way data is made usable, useful and put into use to help our companies swim against the tide of the pandemic and thrive. We’ll all miss our hosts and their supporting acts, the seagulls outside Peter’s.

It’s been my privilege to recap these sessions. Any mistakes are of course my own. And if you haven’t quite got your fill of CDO Summer School, look out for my review of the entire course where I summrise the key lessons and point you in the direction of useful resources to help you succeed.

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