On September 1, we were able to get a peek inside the busy world of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) during our monthly CDO Vision webinar, sponsored by DATAVERSITY. Our special guest was Andrew Salesky, Senior Vice President and Global Data Officer at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.
The hour-long webinar was packed with Andrew’s insights, yet we still had time for many questions from attendees. Andrew, who is Schwab’s first CDO, began the call by sharing his vision of “driving competitive advantage through data.” What this means at Schwab is:
- Make data more accessible and available.
- Enable speed to insight, as data on its own provides no value without insight.
- Create a sound and robust data environment and foundation.
What follows are reflections and soundbites from our call with Andrew. We encourage you to listen to the full replay, which is linked at the end of this article.
COMPANY STRUCTURE AND THE CDO
Andrew frequently gets asked about the optimal organizational structure for a CDO. His advice was simple: Design what works for your specific firm and industry.
At Schwab, the CDO reports in to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), which Andrew said isn’t a common structure in other organizations. He shared that Schwab’s CMO is very data-oriented and is a champion of analytics. With this, Andrew said he gets the best of both worlds: an incredibly strong partner with access to the C-suite. Andrew said that without C-suite awareness and appreciation of the CDO role (or at least its function, if there isn’t a person with the title), making progress on enterprise information management priorities will be hard.
Other points Andrew shared about structure and the CDO:
- A spirit of collaboration is key, because this enables you to learn from and tap into the expertise of others throughout the company.
- Where you are on the org chart doesn’t matter as much if you have the right internal relationships and charter or mission for your area.
- The conversation has shifted from “Do you need a CDO in the organization?” to “Why wouldn’t you have a CDO?”
KEY ATTRIBUTES OF A CDO
Andrew was quick to identify traits that serve a CDO well:
- Be great at building teams – both internally, as you get your team’s structure in place, and also when you bring in people from the outside.
- Be a sales person. You need to structure your game plan and then repeatedly sell it throughout the organization.
- Be a great communicator. Always be asking questions, like: What are the opportunities to leverage data for business growth and value? Am I doing the activities that are creating business value, or am I doing it for some other mandate?
- Be able to deliver quick wins but still focus on foundational issues. (He said 90% of the work is foundational, and “If we don’t do it, no one is going to do it.”)
- Be OK with saying “no” to distractions and anything that derails your focus.
COMMUNICATE … AND THEN COMMUNICATE SOME MORE
Andrew said a CDO’s mandate needs, up front, the right communication framework and then ongoing reinforcement of it. He noted that organizational change management will likely be part of most any data-focused initiative, and that it’s wise to have a plan for it.
Andrew also had this to say about communication:
- Business leaders have many priorities. Despite their interest in the CDO’s world, they may not have the time to think about the opportunities data can provide. Andrew said it’s often “more push than pull,” where he proactively engages other leaders by sharing ideas that bring greater awareness of and interest in the opportunities.
- It can be hard, particularly a large organization, to get your messages across. Realize you’re competing for mindshare, and keep your message simple. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
- Structure messages as a response to organizational pain points. This makes it more compelling for people to want to be on board, which drives alignment and support.
Want to catch the full replay of the September webinar with Andrew Salesky? View the slides and hear the replay here.
Ready to join our next CDO Vision webinar? RSVP here for our Halloween-inspired call on October 6, Data Governance and Enterprise Information Management – Take the Scary Stuff Out of Your Programs.