Entrenched company cultures continue to be among the biggest hurdles for CDOs attempting a data-driven transformation of their companies.

Sara Brown explored the challenges facing CDOs in this article published by MIT-Sloan School:

Chief data officers are often leading a shift in strategy that affects deep-seated company culture and the way people think about and do their jobs. “How do you tell somebody that’s been doing their job for 25 years, off a gut feel, or off of a standard report, ‘We can probably make a better decision with data. We actually have to augment your decision, or you can do something else that’s valuable to the company.’ That’s a very hard conversation to have,” (Walmart CDO Bill) Groves said.

Organizations agree that they need to become data-driven to compete, (NewVantage Partners CEO Randy) Bean said, but that transformation is an ongoing process that happens in fits and starts and by trial and error — especially in legacy companies that have been in business for generations. “It’s a journey,” he said. “There are a number of cultural obstacles. Usually those obstacles have very little to do with enabling technologies and data enabling capabilities, and they have a lot to do with people and business processes and change management and cultural alignment.”

Data and analytics scare a lot of people, (Chase CDO Sandra) Nudelman pointed out. As a data officer, “there are people who are always going to be your fan, and work with you, and partner well. It’s about being accessible and inspiring the people who don’t want to that makes you then open up those opportunities to actually fix the things that are broken, or drive the impact you want to drive,” she said.

(Cigna CDO Gina) Papush outlined three tips for CDOs. “One, wear the business hat. Two, be a change agent,” she said. “We’re not here to maintain the status quo. I think what we do is fundamental in driving the business forward. “Three, don’t look for a recipe. You’ve got to do what’s right for your company. Every company is different.”