Ahead of his appearance at Big Data & AI World in March, Rank Group’s Simon Asplen-Taylor discusses the evolution of the CDO and why building a case for data must begin in the boardroom
How has the role of the CDO evolved over the last decade?
The CDO role existed, but not in title, ten years ago. The demand then was for a Head of Data in IT. It was far more technical in focus with expertise in databases or data governance and data quality. The emergence of the CDO role was through a group of people who were more focused on the business outcomes and were able to cross the line from supplier to a critical resource within the business. I was lucky enough to be one of the first of that new generation.
Why must building a case for data begin in the boardroom?
Unless you get boardroom buy-in the data activities will remain tactical and the true value of data will remain untapped. It will also be less satisfying for the data teams.
What is key to building a successful case?
Talking business language and providing transparency on how the data activities will drive business outcomes.
Give me an example of a time when you failed to build a rock-solid case for data and what you learned from it.
It dates back about 20 years and whilst I proposed all the right activities and processes I singularly failed to explain the value. I was given a hard time, found a good mentor, and came back stronger. I now mentor others.
Why is it important for CDOs to articulate the importance of data roles, and what tips do you give to CDOs seeking to do so?
It’s important because those roles are core to identifying what the business is doing and identifying through the data what has worked and what needs to be improved. My advice to fellow CDOs is to focus on the value. If you always use that lens you’ll always do the right thing and be in demand.
How important is existing data infrastructure, and is this power often overlooked?
The trick is to build on what’s good and quickly get rid of what isn’t. You can only do that if you have a data strategy and then you can see what aligns to that and what doesn’t.
Can you give me a powerful example of when you capitalised on data assets to maximise both efficiencies and profit?
At Lloyds Bank we created a business case to generate an additional £1bn of revenue p.a., delivered. That was a massive deal and the largest business case for data in Europe.
What is your CDO resolution for 2020?
My resolution is simple. Help generate more value for the organisation I’m working for. That means continuous improvement and learning which is not so simple.