Rôle du Chief Data Officer


I recently published an article about the rôle of the Chief Data Officer, as we strongly suggest this role to our clients, who are often large groups seeking a backbone for the important Data component in their digital transformation.

However, we consider that the prevailing buzz on the subject promotes an approach that is much less ambitious than it should be. In fact, in many French articles on the subject, we read of a very IT, very BI-centred approach (“make data available to decision-makers”) for the rôle of Chief Data Officer. This is a good start (and it is perfect for the Etalab mission that is often quoted, offering public data without analysis), but it could be much more ambitious and cutting edge for companies.

The role of Chief Data Officer could be much more developed if his or her process starts with the business issue and expected insights, goes back to the available data, then to the Data Science (with algorithms), necessary to give a response, and delivers action plans (insights, and not data!) to the decision-makers. The architecture (if necessary, big data) supports this, and will even be able to be externalised before industrialisation.

A Chief Data Officer in a large group, capable of leading this advanced process, acting as a strategic interlocutor to the directors, will possess a strong Data Science culture, change management practice, and quite an exhaustive vision of the “business” issues to be addressed.

This slightly minimalist current trend is, without doubt, linked to several factors:

– a lack of resources, of course: talent capable of carrying out such a mission are very hidden, they are not easily identified because they are very rarely working as Chief Data Officers today. But they bring the experiences that in combination will make them successful in such a post;

– the pressure of IT and BI, exerted by large software, hardware and service providers to deploy large infrastructures. There is a lot of business at stake, and these are also career change prospects for IT directors who are jaded in their current posts;

– finally, the disproportion between the buzz about “Big Data” (enormous) and the real “quantity” of knowledge on the subject (very little), means that the voice of the experts cannot be heard very well, and we do not learn enough from them. Projects are put together by novices on the subject, and they learn on the job.

Benoît Binachon – Uman Partners – Executive Search For Data Driven Functions