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Cynozure lets you hire a chief digital officer on demand

Why pay for a full-time chief digital officer? Cynozure has a new service to enable smaller businesses to swap them out, as and when they need a change

Data analytics consultant Cynozure is hoping to plug the skills gap arising from the need for more chief data officer (CDO) roles, particularly amongst smaller businesses. The company has introduced a new service, the CDO Hub, to help smaller businesses hire chief digital officers as and when they need one.

Unlocking value in data is now a priority for 67% of businesses, according to Cynozure’s latest Big Priorities for Data Strategies report. As a result, many organisations are turning to the recruitment of a chief data officer to own the data and analytics agenda.

The CDO Hub works as a portal where CDOs can be hired. Tim Carmichael, a founding member of the CDO Hub network and chief data officer with experience in the utilities sector and the armed forces, said: “Not every business is in a position to invest in a full-time CDO, but most will recognise the huge potential business value of harnessing and exploiting their data. So this CDO-on-demand offering is an elegant and cost-effective way of generating effective data leadership to drive value.”

The CDO Hub comprises experts covering many industry sectors. Members include Pete Williams, formerly of Marks & Spencer, along with Roberto Maranca, formerly chief data officer at Lloyds Banking Group.

Discussing the challenges of recruiting a CDO, Williams said it is hard to find the right level of leadership.

Change role of the CDO

In Williams’ experience, the role of data is often confusing, and tends to sit within IT’s responsibility. “A lot of people think that if we talk data, then it is IT,” he said. “But to exploit data for growth, you need at your fingertips an awareness of the priorities of the business and you need to lead cultural change. People need to understand there is an opportunity to use the data.”

Given that CIOs are increasingly making use of  the cloud, Williams said the role and scale of the CIO has changed. “The CIO can have responsibility to ingest data. But for a CDO, we are talking about a level of commercial awareness that needs to come from the business.” According to Williams, this leads to a partnership between the CDO and CIO.

He said CDOs also need to work with business executives to demonstrate the effectiveness of analytics. “The CDO has to help all board members see the power and opportunities of data.

“I always find that when there is a traditional way to do things, you can show a shiny new data point, that expose areas of business that are not shining heroes.”

However, business leaders may be reluctant to take on board the new data especially if it goes against their gut feeling.

“Data is a logical thing, therefore the proof of data is logic,” said Williams. “You can’t force someone to do something else unless you are the CEO. Instead, you have to use your stakeholder skills and show a way that your numbers are good.”

For instance, he said it is common practice among CDOs to use control groups to demonstrate why a new data point can drive value.

Read more CDO interviews

Jason Foster, founder and CEO of Cynozure said: “Growing businesses need to exploit data.” Investing in a full-time CDO takes time, and starting salaries tend be between £100,000 and £200,000, which smaller companies may find hard to justify.

Foster said the CDO Hub addresses this problem by enabling such companies to hire in CDOs as and when they need one.

As the data maturity of the business evolves over time, the CDO skills the business needs are also likely to change, “In the early days, the role may be about establishing a strategy for data,” he said. “But once the agenda is in place, you need someone who can accelerate the rate of change. This needs a different type of data leader.”

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