How CFOs Can Help CDOs Succeed

CDOs have a tough job

Your chief data officer needs your help. When businesses are constantly told about the enormous value locked up in their data, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that appointing a CDO will provide the magic key. But CDOs can’t do this all on their own – and the C-suite colleague they need support from above all, is the CFO.

Why do CDOs have such a tough job? Well, put yourself in their shoes. One problem is that all too often, organisations appoint CDOs with very broad mandates and very few specific performance metrics. How do they begin to “make data better” without clear guidance on what success looks like or where they should focus their efforts?

A second issue is that many CDOs aren’t equipped to define that mandate in a more disciplined way for themselves, or to bring focus to their teams. For example, they rarely have the business leadership experience required to drive organisational change.

This is not to denigrate CDOs, who bring so many valuable skills to the business. But without a clear mission statement, or the perspective to create one, it is hardly surprising that so many of them struggle to deliver the results their colleagues hoped for.

How CFOs can help CDOs succeed

That’s where you come in. A supportive and engaged CFO makes all the difference in the world to a CDO trying to pick a path through this thicket. The extent of your collaboration with the CDO can determine their chances of success.

After all, the CFO is ultimately responsible for allocating the organisation’s capital, according to its strategic goals and business objectives. In other words, you determine the amount of money that your CDO has to spend on data and have a significant influence on how they spend it. You can set their mission and work with them on how to achieve it.

That doesn’t mean you need to get into the weeds of every data project. Trust your CDO on execution – that’s the expertise you hired them for. But you are in a unique position to provide your CDO with the time, resources and strategic guidance to effect real change and deliver measurable business results – and to ensure those results come in the most strategically important areas for the business.

Indeed, the CFO also sets and enforces the standard for how CDO success is measured. How will their performance be judged? Which metrics will you use to determine the returns on investment they have achieved? With transparency and accountability, you help them to find the right path.

Practical steps for how CFOs can help CDOs succeed

There are many ways to support your CDO and enable their success. Here are a few highly effective steps that CFOs can implement right away: 

Infographic showing the steps CFOs can implement to help CDOs

This is the third blog in a 3-part series, focussed on helping CFOs drive better results from data. Check out the other blogs, on how to: