In an article on Forbes this week Lisa Arthur makes a compelling case why every organisation should have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO), especially now*. From the number of comments and mentions on social media I take it the idea resonates well in the cultural sector, and rightly so. I think a Chief Digital Officer may be the most important ‘hire’ (see below) of your organisation in the coming years.
The Chief Digital Officer is a new senior leadership position. CDOs are “digital-savvy, business-driven leaders” who turn organisations from traditional to data-driven models. The article gives a broad description of the characteristics of such a leader, many of which I fully agree with (and think every professional leading position in an innovative organisation should have): technical expertise, cross-functional finesse, silo-bursting prowess, global perspective, etc.
“[T]he CDO is charged with making decisions about how data and customers relate.” This role, I think, is especially relevant for museums, which – after all – are data-heavy institutions by design. In our Digital Engagement Framework (new book soon!), the CDO is the person who designs and implements the strategies, processes and technologies needed to connect your organisation’s assets (e.g. collection, metadata) with your audiences.
Looking at museum, I think the roles and responsibilities of a Chief Digital Officer should include:
- Make sure the museum’s data is ‘open’, not just for the outside world, but also internally: your audience has to be able to use the data you produce to better their own work and your audience should have easy access to it.
- Connect ‘data’ with audiences. Make sure your collections, events and all other assets find their way to the people who might benefit from them. If ‘open’ is a more passive approach to data, ‘connect’ is its active equivalent.
- Use insight in audience to prioritise data. Even though we live in a world full of data, a lot of interesting data is still not digitally available. The CDO should use her knowledge about the organisation, its mission and audiences to make sure the right data becomes available.
- Advocate the use of data in an organisation.
- Use data creatively. Unlike for-profits, I feel museum have the added responsibility to bring the wonderful world of data to people in creative ways. The much appreciated Rijksstudio of the Rijksmuseum is an example of this, as are many other great museum projects.
- Make data sustainable. Maybe the most important role, or responsibility, is to keep the data up-to-date and available for eternity. Data should be treated like our most precious collection objects.
Unfortunately, nobody’s hiring, so even when your CEO is now convinced you need a CDO, chances are slim you’ll get one on board anytime soon. This brings me to the most important thing I take away from the article: Many museums already have a CDO. He or she is just called ‘information specialist’, ‘digital manager’, etc. To lift the person already responsible for data to the C-suite – with the responsibilities but also the power this implies – is the real message of the article.
Of course, this requires training (leadership, management, fund raising, etc.), courage and some structural adjustments on the side of the organisation, but I believe it’s a development we will see in the near future. So, brace yourself, you might have to start wearing a suit to work very soon;-)
* Thanks Jamie for sharing!
Header image: Spot the CDO (and let’s hope it’s a position that is open to women!). Photo by Länsmuseet Gävleborg.