Gartner predicts that by 2021, “the office of the CDO will be seen as a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75 percent of large enterprises.”

When you consider how integral data and business intelligence have become to all facets of operations, this finding is not surprising. However, as the role of the CDO gains prominence in organizations it’s critical that a certain leadership quality not be overlooked: Effective people skills.

In today’s data-driven business environment, information should be viewed and treated as a corporate asset. To turn this asset into business intelligence, companies must put it in the hands of as many people as possible. And to do this effectively, CDOs must be able to understand the information needs of its people at various levels, the challenges facing these roles, and how they can help these individuals overcome any obstacles preventing them from becoming a data-driven.

With that in mind, let’s examine the top reasons both a company and its employees benefit from a CDO that’s a people person:

  1. Success Requires Change Agents — Making data access pervasive throughout the organization can be a complicated process that often involves a cultural change within a company, especially non-digital native one. As such, it’s critical that those instituting the change be empathetic and position business intelligence and analytics technologies as tools to help, not hinder, employees at every level of the organization. With this comes being patient with the resistance that inevitably accompanies change.
  2. The Art of Influence — CDOs must understand the data needs and challenges of those in non-technical roles, but it’s also important that this empathetic approach is reflected in conversations with colleagues and in the boardroom. Nothing will shut a dialogue down faster than an inflexible CDO with a “my way or the highway” attitude. Successful CDOs need to be open, flexible, and persuasive with the ability to tell a Digital Transformation story that shows value to every level of the organization.
  3. Make it Fun — A key component of the CDO role is educating employees on the transformative power of data and analytics — but this education doesn’t have to be boring. For example, the City of Louisville, Kentucky is encouraging employees to be more data-driven by awarding them digital badges for various data projects.
  4. Be the “Go-To-Person” — If data is truly to be pervasive throughout the organization it follows that the CDO — as the face of this cultural change — must also be accessible to everyone in the organization. This means being part of the deployment of new solutions and, when the situation calls for it, transparently addressing any issues that may arise. An open door policy is also important to keep an ongoing dialogue with employees along the way.
  5. Attracting Top Talent — The data job market is hot and will only get hotter as adoption of AI, machine learning, and other emerging technologies increases. An accessible, relatable CDO at the helm of a company’s data team will ensure it is attracting and retaining the right talent with this right skills sets in this competitive environment .

A successful data-driven culture relies on the right combination of technology, data and people. CDOs that don’t prioritize the latter make a critical mistake that could slow progress and even derail a company’s data science initiatives.