CAO and CDO Skills That Matter When Disruption Is the New Normal

Disruption is the new normal. We’re in the midst of a digital transformation that some are calling ‘4th Industrial Age,’ and disruption is the main characteristic of this revolution. There’s no mistaking that this is a train that not only has left the station, but is also going very fast. Those who are waiting for it to slow down will lag further behind with every passing day. That’s why organizations need change agents at the helm of their digital transformations to stay relevant in the age of big data.

Any business can buy technology to store the constant 24/7 chatter and real-time flow of data. But can they get ahead with ‘just technology?’ Without a chief data officer to lead the way or a chief analytics officer to map analytics strategy, is it possible to be competitive in the 4th Industrial Age?

In my earlier post, I sketched out why you need a CAO in your C-Suite. Each of the three C-Suite musketeers – CIO, CAO and CDO – have very distinct and critical roles in delivering value from data and analytics to drive growth and profitability.

But to manage disruption effectively, it’s extremely critical for them to have a strong mix of hard and soft skills and an agile ability to switch to and fro between the ‘hard’ hats to a ‘soft’ one! While there is no doubt that the hard skills are advancing significantly in these disruptive times, is it the same for soft skills?

We do believe that the fundamental leadership skills for a CAO and CDO can still stand the test of time to manage transformation through chaos. Thus, when hiring for these positions, businesses need to identify master change agents who can triangulate strong business acumen, strategic leadership skills, and technically innovative creative thinking.

Businesses Need Candidates with Business Acumen, Strategic Thinking Skills and Who Are Innovative

The CAO and CDO are tasked with delivering real-world business solutions using data insights and technology. Beyond the ability to extract knowledge from vast amounts of data and to execute methodologies in big data analytics, these leaders must also have strong business acumen.

In general, the CAO/CDO must have exceptional analytical skills, but because their value is in uncovering previously unseen data and connections, they also need to be creative strategic thinkers. They should have the operational skills necessary to make sure insights are put into action. To achieve results, these roles must have the ability to communicate well and be able to explain new and ever more complex systems, techniques and outcomes in simple terms.

Just as before, the CAO and CDO must recognize that their goal is to empower the decision makers with insights they need to convert data into action for their businesses. Thus, even in this disruptive environment, some good old wisdom and rules for hiring leadership talent remain unchanged when recruiting a CAO or CDO to join your C-Suite. Here are five to keep in mind when hiring for these roles.

The Rules for Success Remain Unchanged

Future Vision
To take advantage of the data your organization collects, you absolutely must have the right people at the helm. A CAO or CDO can guide you on the strategic use of data to transform your organization, while innovatively deploying disruptive technologies. Organizations should seek candidates who are master change agents and thought leaders with the ability to articulate a future vision and the soft skills to carry business decision makers with them.

Data Governance
For the most part, the old 80/20 data law still applies. Organizations usually find maximum value and use from just a small percentage of data. Therefore, it’s critical that organizations hire a CAO and CDO who can identify what those valuable bits are. And just like before, true value will only come from accurate, good clean ‘data lakes’ that inspire confidence in fact-based decision-making.

Think IoT
There is a silent IoT revolution underway. This triangle of sensors, network, and advanced analytics offers businesses the potential of real-time analytics. As always, this means the next-generation CAO and CDO must take advantage of data insights today, while also having a vision for the future. Prevailing wisdom that 18 months is the longest planning horizon for businesses is still true. It’s impossible to plan for innovation or disruptive factors beyond this as change is a continuum. But given the accelerating velocity of this change, it’s still critical for organizations to hire change agents in CAO and CDOs who can see where the train is going, while at the same time keeping its wheels on the track.

Consumers as Disruptors
The consumer is still king! However, today, most businesses are in a drastic state of flux because their customers now have an unprecedented ability to access information and use technology to control their consumer experiences. So, your C-Suite shouldn’t be surprised that it’s consumers – not technology – disrupting their world. Some call it “Amazoning.” The CAO and CDO must be acutely sensitive to the mix of old and new consumer paradigm in defining data and analytic strategies.

Talent Wars
How does any organization prepare for disruption? None of it is going to be possible without that “next generation” of senior and executive-level leadership talent we mentioned before. The talent war is still ongoing albeit heating up for talented and hard-to-find professionals who help convert visions to reality.

Your hiring mindset has to catch up to the changing world outside. It is not the years of experience but an emerging mix of expertise that matters today.

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