‘Ask Me Anything’ Highlights: The CDOs Playbook





Authors of ‘The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook’ Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson joined us in Venturi’s Voice Slack on April 6 for an ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) session.


Questions from the community covered a broad range of topics from ethics through to favourite books. In response, Caroline and Peter gave first-hand insight and advice on dealing with the challenges of creating and managing a data strategy that delivers results.


Below we have presented some of the highlights from the event.


To access the full transcript or take part in upcoming AMA events, join Venturi’s Voice Slack.



Question from @Jonny


Can you offer any tips/advice on how to tell a good story with data?


Caroline: When telling a story about data, keep it simple and keep it relevant. The best stories are those that everyone can relate to. If it doesn’t mean anything to you how can you expect others to understand it. I test mine out on my parents all the time, if they get what I’m trying to say then it’s at least in the right ballpark.

Peter: First I make sure that I am pitching it at the right level for the audience (either technical or non-technical). I tend to use a lot of analogies and try to link my narrative to identifiable business value.



Question from @BDoherty


In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, what can be done to make sure a large-scale data strategy is ethically robust?


Caroline: This is always a tricky area because people and social values change over time. For instance, what was acceptable in the content of 1940’s advertising would be highly offensive today. However, the basic rules are:

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
  • Think through the consequences both direct and indirect before acting
  • Be ready to act quickly if you get it wrong

Sometimes it’s the unintended and unforeseen consequences that come and bite you!  



Question from @stan


Is there a go-to code of ethics used by the data community (similar to the Hippocratic oath)?


Caroline: The closest we’ve got to ethical principles in our industry at the moment, for me, is CILIP’s (Chartered Institute of Library Information Professionals) who have a code of professional conduct.


Question from @Will


I’ve seen several articles claiming something along the lines of “once the data strategy is embedded into ‘Business As Usual’, the catalyst that drove the change (the CDO) is no longer necessary” – how would you respond to that?


Caroline: My response would be, once you’ve landscaped your garden does that mean you don’t need to look after it? You might have a different focus but the need to look after data doesn’t go away.

Peter: No business is static and the demands on the data or the opportunities in the data change and evolve so a senior position around data remains important. Let me give you an analogy, once the accounting processes and financial reporting reporting processes are embedded within BAU can we get rid of the CFO? The CDO is responsible for the quality, management and exploitation of data just as the CFO is responsible in the same way with finances.



Question from @Barney Jackson


I was wondering if you had thoughts to share on delineating between data and IT when it comes to team structures/management/goals/deliverables/ etc. on cross-discipline projects?


Peter: Good question, and the answer will vary slightly based on context and from organisation to organisation. I think that it is a good idea for data teams to have an element of DevOps to support their own data tech environment and enable agile delivery of work to the business. The most important thing though is to have people with the correct skills in a cross-discipline project regardless of which team they are embedded from and their line management is of even less importance. It does make sense to ‘architects’ drawn from one core team (probably IT) so that they are working to the same standards, and the same with any of the core disciplines.



Question from @Tommy G


If you could go back and repeat your first 100 days as a CDO, is there anything you would do differently?


Caroline: In the first 100 days there are always things you wished you’d done differently because those first days never feel like they have enough hours in them.  Based on my experience, I’d say be kind to yourself, don’t assume you will get as much done as you want.

Peter: I’m always learning! I think the single most significant thing is I now have a very clear idea of how long it actually takes to mobilise an organisation around data and how long it takes to deliver data items often due to factors out of your own hands. Like Caroline, I would be kinder on myself and more accepting that somethings (like procurement) take some time.



Question from @Daniel


What’s the best Business Book you’ve read in the last 6 months?


Caroline: The best business book I’ve read recently is actually an older one that I was just introduced to called ‘Eat the Frog’. The main thing I took from it is that’s it’s too easy to procrastinate so get the thing you really don’t want to do out of the way first. Once that’s done things will be easier from that point forward.




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