How to Succeed as a Chief Data Officer

As part of our ongoing #CxO ThoughtLeader best practices series, this week we welcome Carole McCluskey, CIO and CTO of TrueBlue, Inc., to talk about best practices for success in the role of Chief Data Officer.

Carole McCluskey has a wide variety of executive experience in multiple industries, and is an expert in digital transformation. I expect you'll get a lot of value from Carole's perspective.

A transcript of the video is below.

What data strategy would you share with a new Chief Data Officer?

The biggest one is to really, truly get familiar with the business itself. To know who your stakeholders are, know what the pain points are, understand who your customers are, so that you can relate to the information and data challenges that you’re really going to be up against. So really get to know and not assume a bunch of pre-disposed ideas coming into the business. Start there, start with some humility about what you need to learn about the business.

How do you get started doing that?

My practice has always been to start with how we make money. What drives the company, what are our values around that sense of purpose. So get close to that, understand that, and realize that’s going to be where your pain points are really going to be focused.

So who’s your customer, how do you generate revenue, and then what data, what results, what activities and actions do I need to make sure I can help drive in the company and align with that.

What’s the biggest barrier to achieving that?

I think the landmines that you’re going to find trying to bring a data orientation or a digital orientation to a company that isn’t familiar with that or it’s not in their current DNA—there’s no muscle memory there, right?—so what you have to do is create stories for the business, for the folks that you want to influence that they can relate to. If people have never experienced something, it’s really hard for them to just abstractly understand why you want to suddenly ask them to do things differently. If you can bring a story or two in from businesses they can relate to, consumer-oriented businesses that have been successful have been turned around that they can relate to, I think that really helps.

I think it’s knowing them, understanding them, hearing their pain, but then being a story teller.

How has the role of Chief Data Officer changed?

Gone are the days we just built data centers, just built a bunch of stuff and kept the tech running. Now, because we have so many great technologies that we can pull from in the cloud, and mobile, and all these digital capabilities the evangelism becomes more important because it’s really not about building a bunch of stuff any more.

It’s about bringing things together and creating value out of all the possible technology endpoints that are there, and making sense of it. And because they’re changing so rapidly our stories and our context around that has to continue to evolve.

This interview transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.<br>