The Unexpected Essential Soft Skills for Every Chief Data Officer

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“My CDO has a lot of resources, but I don’t get much out of them. I don’t know what value they really provide.”

If you haven’t heard a tweet like this before, you’re either an amazing person or you’re beyond the reach of rumors.

In my previous life, I was a screenwriter before I became Chief Data Officer (CDO) (that’s a common career path, right?). As a screenwriter, I told stories to make movies. As the CDO, I tell stories using data to demonstrate real business value before word spreads.

Incredibly, consistently delivering high business value is not enough to prevent an organization’s values ​​from being questioned. You have to be able to shout these words from the top of a mountain with confidence. At the very least, you should be able to share it calmly on a conference call with executives.


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Effective storytelling reflects a data organization’s value proposition in the minds of key stakeholders and senior leaders so that it cannot be reasonably challenged. Without a story, tweets can lead to suspicion and breakups.

find stories in data

Good stories were often told. That’s the goal. It’s a daunting task for some, but don’t worry. You don’t need scripting experience to reveal a good story. If you’re a strategic CDO, chances are your story elements are already on a shared drive. Of his seven key elements of the story, four easily correspond to the vision, strategy, roadmap, and function you’re leading right now.


Corporate Strategic Plan is all data and analysis Activities should be coordinated. Otherwise, you will be writing in the wrong genre. halloween 17, Starring Mickey Mouse! (Actually, it would be fun to write. I’m going to make some calls.)


Data Organization Charters and Strategic Plans declare the organization’s purpose and its motivations expressed through strategic objectives. They are recurring ideas that permeate your story.


A data organization operational plan contains story events such as use cases, data initiatives, and deliverables, and a roadmap plots them in time.


The business value and outcomes generated by data and analytics are the essence of the story. Management and the company as a whole rarely want to hear anything else.

The remaining three elements are confrontation (I think we’ve met), character (Data Community), and perspectiveIn this case, your organization is either a thought partner empowered to reject unmatched and low-value requests, or an indentured servant to those requests.

Tell the story of your data well

Insist on regular meetings with key stakeholders and senior executives to share stories, and don’t accept an answer of no. Equally important, don’t ignore middle and line managers who repeat upward praise. At a senior staff meeting, your argument that data organizations are valuable to the business is far less compelling than corporate executives clamoring for their value. Getting others to tell your story is a skill.

Here are some tips for telling your story well.

Please leave the message as it is. there is only one. It is the business outcome that is or will be generated by data and analytics.

Numbers over letters. Quantify business outcomes. Quality over quantity works for airplane parts and award ceremonies, but for us, quantitative stories trump qualitative ones.

Adopt setup and achievements. This is important. Tell them what you’re trying to achieve, then tell them what you’re achieving, then tell them what you’ve achieved. Here are some reasons why a three-act structure is effective:

  • The set-up raises the expectation of the outcome, and when it is delivered, the positive reaction is even more likely.
  • Regular check-ins increase stakeholder engagement, while continued expectations of future results strengthen that relationship.
  • Consistent delivery of results, or results, makes it easier for you to gain credibility and credibility because you are perceived as fulfilling your promises (settings).

Excited. Enthusiasm and passion are as contagious as their lack.

make time. This investment pays for itself in the time averted to justify the data organization’s value proposition, but without a story the value proposition is questionable. Storytelling is the existentially “aggressive role” data organization.

Around the Campfire: Telling Data Stories

Storytelling is universal. Its purpose is to fuse and spread cultures. It’s a talented CDO storyteller who lights the digital campfire and invites the tribe to hear stories woven from the fabric that binds the whole tribe together. data.

Shayde Christian is Cloudera’s Chief Data and Analytics Officer.

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