A CDO’s priority projects

Home Blends & Trends 9 October 2018

Over the past few years, the role of Chief Data Officer has been taking off: 23% of companies named a CDO in 2017, compared to just 18% in 2016. The role has developed gradually in businesses, and has various names and responsibilities depending on the company. From November 2017 to June 2018, fifty-five worked with a group of French CDOs in order to better understand their jobs and challenges. Keep reading to find out what we learned.

Different names for different duties

Head of data, big data director, data strategy director, director of data science and client knowledge, administrator of data in public organisations, or even CIO…

CDOs’ jobs are either interdisciplinary or else focused on IT, marketing, legal, or business-specific matters. To determine the focus of a given CDO, look no further the department they are part of: general management, marketing, IT, digital, etc. The job is hybrid and multidisciplinary, including skills like IT, security (CISO), legal, and departmental (marketing, HR). Every CDO shares the same goal, however: leveraging data to foster business development.

What’s the job description?

The CDO’s goal is met through a variety of responsibilities, including:

  • Overseeing data governance, implementing new organisational structures,
  • Defining a data strategy,
  • Collecting, using, and drawing value from data, thus mastering big data tools,
  • Giving data accessibility to all departments,
  • Sharing data culture with all employees,
  • Piloting data projects, creating new growth drivers and measuring performance,
  • Ensuring data processing compliance.

For François-Xavier Pierrel, Corporate Director of CRM and Social for French auto group Renault since summer 2017, governance is the cornerstone of a digital strategy: “Governance allows us to set rules for data, to determine who it belongs to, as well as why, how and for whom data is collected.”

But some, like the Caisse des Dépôts (French public finance institution) build their policies around value-creation rather than governance. “It’s about creating a strong momentum to encourage demand for data analytics, and then organizing data networks afterwards. We wanted to build a governance system around business needs,” explains Thao Sananikone, the Caisse des Dépôts’ data administrator.

In any event, the CDO should be business-centric. Antoine Denoix, CDO of AXA insurance group, put it well: “data can have two purposes: improve already-existing processes to generate extra growth, and find a new value proposition for the company.”

Choosing ambassadors and tools to make data more accessible

Angélique Bidault-Verliac, Data Science and Client Knowledge director at OUI.sncf (French travel website), spoke about her experience. She said “data accessibility has been accelerated at our company after identifying super-users of our internal data and business tool. Since we have begun using them and their influence, the use of this tool has become widely popular throughout our company.”  Thao Sananikone also encourages tools where data “is ready to be used, and nicely presented. This fosters and accelerates adoption across teams..”

Advertisers opting for in-house

Cultivating in-house data profiles takes time, because of five related factors:

–       Needs have only recently been identified,

–        Companies are recruiting less for economic reasons,

–        HR departments are unfamiliar with these new job roles,

–        Companies have not yet clearly redefined their employer brand enough to attract data talent compared to agencies and tech companies,

–        Properly trained candidates in this specialty are rare.

Pierre Harand, Managing Director France of fifty-five, points out that internalisation can vary across companies: “Internalising doesn’t have to mean recruiting a whole team that does everything. Complete internalisation requires a critical mass, with a large enough media investment to justify taking the human and technological steps necessary. Data must have a profound impact on the business. Advertisers often choose a hybrid system as a first step, mixing internal teams with specialists brought on-site.”

Big repercussions for hiring

Cédric Delhougne, Customer Data Manager at Total, identifies the area where shortage of candidates is the most blatant: “Data scientists and data analysts, digital marketers, SEO and UX experts, but above all project managers that are able to drive digital transformation projects.”

Matthieu Bret, Head of Data and Omnichannel Analytics at Orange telecoms group, has found one solution to struggling to recruit externally: working with HR departments to promote these new job roles internally. “We have training programmes in place (…) We can use external specialists to help our projects evolve, from time to time, but we also want to build a long-term strategy and thus invest in these kind of candidates internally.”

Francesca Glavany, Director of Big Data at Leroy Merlin (DIY superstore chain), goes one step further: “Our recruiters don’t know much about data jobs, and so we are educating them and now work together, as partners. We attend job fairs and visit schools… After 18 months, we are getting some visibility and credibility on the data science and big data job markets.”

Prioritising data work

At Renault, François-Xavier Pierrel has his hands full. He and his teams must develop a data lake and a data mart, as well as use dataviz and attribution scores… “Today, the toughest part for our teams is prioritising the work! To lay the foundations of a data-driven strategy, we had to streamline our existing Adtech and Martech infrastructures, while taking our workflow with external consultants into account. So the first step was to re-internalise data science on key projects, a structural move that will pave the way to reaching our objectives.”

To sum up, the CDOs interviewed all agreed that data projects for the upcoming year will focus on building an omnichannel and seamless customer experience, including personalization and performance measurement. Future candidates, take note!


Quotes are taken from the “Chief Data Officer 2018” white paper (French publication), produced by the EBG in partnership with fifty-five and Informatica.

This article was translated from French by Niamh Cloughley.

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