A few weeks back I received a call from a head-hunter who asked me what kind of skills are necessary for data management professionals. Based on discussions with other companies she had shortlisted a bunch of technical skills, such as data modelling and SQL coding, as prerequisites.
My immediate reaction was that these technical skills should not be the focus. The best data people are those who have a good understanding of the relevance of particular data in business context. This ability to identify and communicate critical data issues (out of the myriad of minor issues) that comes from business experience and, unlike basic technical skills such as SQL and data modelling, is very difficult to teach. Internationally, this view is driving the development strategy of our data quality partner, Trillium Software, who are on continuously focussing on delivering data management capabilities that support business users – there is no need for SQL coding or other labour intensive technical skills.
What was most interesting to me was the parallel between this finding, and that of the recent Ernst & Young publication, The DNA of the CIO, This report summarises the finding of their research into what makes the CIO tick.
The crux of the matter – for CIO’s to be recognised as equivalent to other C-level executives they need to move away from technology focussed skills and enhance soft skills such as building and maintaining both internal and external relationships.
The Chief Data Officer, and other data management professionals, can learn a lot from this research.
Soft skills such as appropriate communication, building appropriate networks and lobbying for budget are far more critical than technical skills. If the data management team cannot sell business leaders on why their work is valuable then it doesn’t really make any difference what skills they have.
The E&Y report also highlights that more forward thinking CIO’s are frequently hampered by outdated perceptions that the rest of the board has about the role of IT.
The DNA of the Chief Data Officer is yet to be defined.
By focussing on soft skills from day one the Chief Data Officer has the opportunity to ensure that they are seen as a valuable, strategic player on the board. It is their ability to do this that will affect the viability of data management as a business function for years to come.