How data savvy is your organisation? #CDOSummerSchool

Edafe Onerhime
5 min readAug 11, 2020
Three Black women looking at a laptop in front of them on desk — Photo by PICHA Stock from Pexels.
Three Black women looking at a laptop in front of them on desk — Photo by PICHA Stock from Pexels.

What’s your data capability? How data savvy is your organisation? When should you run a data maturity assessment and why? Join me for #CDOSummerSchool #DataLiteracy recap of week 2 — assessing data maturity.

Week two of Chief Data Officer Summer School — pandemic edition! Run by Carruthers and Jackson in collaboration with Collibra, these weekly sessions gives us data leaders the chance to learn, connect and discuss what we do: getting the right data (and insight) to the right people, at the right time and in the right way, so they can make the decisions that help our organisations thrive, connect and deliver. In short, making data meaningful, valuable and valued.

This week we’re talking data maturity assessments, why and how to run them in your organisation. A data maturity assessment is essentially an audit of your organisation’s capability to make use of data to achieve its goals. Running an assessment gives you a baseline of how data savvy (or not) your organisation is. With this baseline in hand, you can find the right starting point towards using data to deliver on your organisation’s strategy.

Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson tackled this session as ably and with as much enthusiasm as in week one: Which Generation Chief Data Officer are you? This week the focus moved from you, the data leader to the organisation you’re working to change.

As in week one, making change happen was a theme of week two. A data maturity assessment is more than a baseline of where you are now, it’s also:

  • A simple, effective way to engage with people throughout the organisation at all levels to understand what data means to them, diagnose their struggles or pinpoint their delights with data;
  • A strategic tool to agree the current state of your data capability with leadership, grassroots and key change makers in your organisation so you can make change happen;
  • A continuous improvement tool for data and change making;
  • Data! Both qualitative (words) and quantitative (numbers) that signal where your organisation is right now so you can measure again to check your progress;
  • Evidence that the work you’re doing is delivering the value you want, for example your OKRs or ROI;
  • A way to find allies and data champions — the people who’ll support you making better data happen in your organisation;
  • A potential barrier if folks fixate on the assessment itself rather than the reason you’re running one (thanks to Ed Parkes for articulating this);
Tweet from Ed Parkes on data maturity assessments — a means not an end

There are dozens of data maturity models or data assessment frameowkrs to choose from when you run a data maturity assessment. Aside from the Carruthers and Jackson model, I’ve also used the Data Orchard model recently.

Carruthers and Jackson Data Maturity Model

Choose a model that looks at your organisation as a whole, helps you engage people from all areas of the business and it easy for everyone to read and understand. Avoid data maturity models that focus on technology and governance only. The people and culture in an organisation, the way it operates and the tools it uses to do so are all important aspects too.

Data Orchard Data Assessment Framework

When’s the best time to run a data maturity assessment? Who owns the data maturity assessment? These were hot questions in the chat during the session. Again, a little disagreement between our hosts that revealed nuance to deciding the timing of this activity. Caroline advocates for “as soon as possible”, Peter cautions “with leadership support”, the answer for your organisation may be somewhere between these two.

I absolutely agree that data maturity needs to be owned by the business with senior sponsorship. Just like data belongs in the boardroom and it’s important to have a realistic approach to making change happen around data, data maturity is a team sport with the business running the game. Our roles as data leaders? Cheerlead, facilitate, and use your expertise to change the image and use of data — as a key asset not a backroom function.

What if you can’t run a data maturity assessment right now because there is little leadership support, everyone’s distracted or you’re in the middle of a crisis? The data maturity models are still a useful way to frame your conversations, begin to collect the evidence you need and take quick and dirty baseline figures you can track.

This won’t get you the full impact of a data maturity assessment but it does start to bring the importance of data into people’s minds. When you are ready to run that assessment, you’ll find people much more eager to get involved when you speak their language and are proposing something they’re familiar with.

The session covered a depth of topics around data maturity I haven’t touched on here, as well as the sheer volume of chat tips I have yet to plumb. As data maturity assessments have been my life for the last 6 months, I decided to focus on reviewing how our work with Carruthers and Jackson went, what we learnt and what I would change about their model or our execution to make it fit our organisation better.

I tend to agree with Caroline that the first time you run an assessment, get someone in to facilitate and learn from them. The second time, get them to observe and give you feedback and after that, you should be confident running these assessments periodically yourself.

Remember: A data maturity assessment is a continuous improvement tool, you don’t run it just once.

See you soon for a recap of week three.

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Edafe Onerhime

Edafe Onerhime specialises in making impact with data. Her motto: Data + Design + Culture. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland with her wife and cat. She/Her.