Day 0 CDO language. The translator, interpreter and go-between

Whilst our ongoing agile iteration into information beings is never-ending, there are the first 100 days. But what to focus on? Well, that rose-tinted period of conflicting optimisation is what </Hello, CDO!> is all about. Maintaining sanity when all else has been lost to untested data assumptions is a different problem entirely.

On Day zero of being a #CDO, you have to be ready and prepared as a translator, interpreter and go-between. Yes, the essential “translation” of business needs into information requires identifying the appropriate data, the relevant analysis, and the correct interpretations, but that is not what I am talking about. There is a different translation to the appropriately modelled, described and analysed, data that offers the language to enable siloed departments in organisations to talk to each other.

The CDO must have translation skills to help other executives talk about what data means to them and that each party leaves with a common understanding. Exceptional executives can ensure that key concepts from one domain or department are appropriately translated into language and concepts in the other domain.

By example,

  • Data in the language of the finance department has to do with how to position data revenue and costs in the activities in the finance team use. Getting the budget spent on data, algorithms and analysis into the proper R&D tax claim, the capitalisation table and the correct allocation for depreciation take times. How and when should data revenue be recognised? How should the margin for data be calculated? It has nothing to do with what the data does. Understanding what KPI’s the CFO is tasked with and how you can help them be achieved makes for an excellent working relationship. If The CFO is tasked with improving the balance sheet, how you capitalise spending is critical.
  • Data in the language of the legal department is a focus on the contractual and regulatory obligations. Understanding what the General Council is responsible for is critical, as it has nothing to do with the value data creates for the organisation. If you want certain protections for data, data use and data sharing, working with the legal team to craft holistic on and offline terms that spread across all contracts is critical.
  • Data in the language of the marketing team can be about privacy persevering data sharing and trust, leading to additional brand value. Sitting down with the senior leadership team in marketing to understand their KPI and BSC can help you translate data into what they need to achieve their goals. It has nothing to do with the value of the data; how they use data is a different issue. However, the CDO must be on top of conflicts that arise with sales targets driven by incentives, KPI’s opt-in demands and contractual boundaries.

Being the translator, interpreter and go-between form you like a bridge, but as already articulated, it means you are also the new corporate punchbag.

Note to the CEO

The CDO must have translation skill to help your executives speak with other disciplines about data and enable each party to leave with a common understanding. All CDOs will find the language to translate business context into data-enabled initiatives and ensure that key concepts from one domain or department are appropriately translated into language and concepts in the other domain.

We focus on the skills to “translate business needs” into data and information needs during interviews and the recruitment cycle. This additional translator, interpreter and go-between skill in this article are the built-in skills for exceptional CDO’s. However, if there is someone already in the team with this strength, it is not essential, but it does create a better working culture. Should you need these skills, they must be proven to you before you offer the job, it is not one to learn on the job.