The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook takes the reader on the journey of a chief data officer entering and making an impact in a data-driven organisation. Before even getting started, the authors, Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson, provide an extremely useful glossary of technical terms, so the reader can understand the nature of TDAs (or technical data authorities) and recognise the difference between a data lake and a data warehouse.
The early chapters set the scene by outlining the type of company that needs a chief data officer (CDO) as well as the qualities and characteristics of a CDO. Later chapters discuss what a CDO may face during the first 100 days in the post, building a CDO support team, the first 300 days, being disruptive, and riding the wave of the hype cycle. The closing chapters look at broader issues such as data and ethics, data governance, the data revolution and rounds off with advice to business owners, CEOs and the board.
The book includes many datafied pearls of wisdom, including one which I’ll paraphrase as “governed data is data you know you can trust and, if not, you know which parts you can trust and which you can’t.” Carruthers and Jackson also advise on where the CDO should sit within the organisation. They suggest that having the CDO report directly to the CEO sends a strong message that the company is placing its data strategy higher on the list of priorities, than if they were to report to the CIO.
The authors also list the obstacles that could impede the success of a newly-appointed CDO. These include absolution, or assigning all issues relating to data to the CDO, which in a way is creating a silo of responsibility for data, and overly-high expectations stemming from the intense hype around data.
Carruthers and Jackson also list the performance indicators that an organisation might want to measure its new CDO against, helpfully ranking them with regard to which would be most useful to a company depending on its level of data maturity.
“A chief data officer should start by listening, listening, listening.”
The authors know their onions. When suggesting what a CDO should do upon first entering a new company, they say to “start by listening, listening, listening.” This is almost word-for-word the advice I remember a well-respected data leader giving at a DataIQ Leaders event.
The advice in the book is punctuated with quotations from CDOs and other top-level data professionals. They include the CDOs of the Financial Times, The Economist and the Ministry of Defence, as well as the chief data scientist of BBVA. While these quotations helped to make the book a more engaging read by bringing in different perspectives, some of the quotations were a tad lengthy.
There are three lovely parables by Tim Carmichael, former CDO and CAO of the British Army. He categorised professionals whose jobs are being disrupted by data as being data tinkers, data tailors or data soldiers. I won’t give those stories away. They are worth the read.
While the book is text-heavy, each chapter begins with a cute illustration. There are also several infographics. However, more attention could have been paid to design. One infographic is of such low resolution that the text within it is impossible to read, for example.
"A successful organisation collects the right data, stores it well, makes it accessible to the business."
In the conclusion, the authors state that, “a successful organisation will be one that collects the right data, stores it well, makes it accessible to the business, and uses it to gain insight and wisdom enabling it to make accurate and powerful decisions.” This book is a how-to guide for the data leaders helping those companies to be one of thosse that does succeed with the help of data.