By Malcolm Hawker,
Thought Leader | CDO | Data Strategy | Master Data Management | Data Governance | Host of the CDO Matters Podcast

What would happen if CDOs consciously decided to delay efforts on defining a data strategy, choosing instead to spend their entire first year in a new position focused entirely on solving lower effort, higher value business problems? ????‍♀️

I ask this question because while I was a Gartner analyst, I witnessed many situations where new CDO’s would invest heavily in work to define a data strategy at the expense of finding ways to immediately add value.

Consultants would be hired, and many of the internal resources usually allocated to ‘grow the business’ initiatives would instead dive into detailed, months-long discovery processes in support of a current-state evaluation.

The more ‘broken’ the internal processes and systems, the longer the process would take.

The more the new CDO would seek stakeholder engagement and involvement in the strategy, the longer the process would take.

For large companies, this process could play out over several months – often extending beyond the first year.

The business and senior leadership would rightfully get impatient, and in time the entire undertaking would begin to appear as if it were only a check-box exercise – since people outside the process could logically conclude it was ‘strategy for strategy sake’.

Don’t get me wrong – you *absolutely positively* need a data strategy.

But if 30 years+ in business has taught me anything, it’s that many companies have a hard time finding balance.

So when the pendulum swings, it swings hard. And in the case of data strategies, many CDOs operate under the assumption that a fully baked strategy is a hard dependency for any tactical, short term improvements.

And even if a new CDO is working on *some* short term projects, the scope of the strategy effort often ends up overshadowing everything else.

So for these companies – I could see situations where focusing a first year almost entirely on solving for technical debts that will drive significant business value could be beneficial – and give new CDOs the credibility they need to ‘take a step back’ in their second year to later focus on the strategy.

What do you think? Is taking a year moratorium on data strategy work an over-reaction to a problem solved with better leadership? Or is taking a year to learn the company, the role, and the challenges before diving headlong into a strategy effort perhaps a good idea?

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