Planning for data leadership success? You need a BUDDIE

Edafe Onerhime
5 min readOct 19, 2020
Chief Data Officer’s BUDDIE

I designed the BUDDIE system as part of my Chief Data Officer’s toolbox, inspired the Carruthers & Jackson CDO Summer School.

The toolbox is designed to help you succeed as a leader making data valuable and valued in your organisation.

BUDDIE helps you plan for your first 100 days as a Chief Data Officer (or other data leadership role) and beyond. People use it to help them build relationships to navigate organisational politics and gain deep understanding of their organisation while hitting the ground running on delivery from day one.

It’s easy as a new data leader to quickly get lost in day-to-day activity and lose sight of your long term goals. This is where BUDDIE combined with other tools can help keep you on track.

What does BUDDIE stand for?

The Chief Data Officer’s BUDDIE — Build, Understand, Diagnose, Deliver, Iterate, Engage

BUDDIE stands for Build, Understand, Diagnose, Deliver, Iterate and Engage. These aren’t six steps in a sequence, but six key areas you need to bear in mind and work on continuously. Sometimes you’ll focus more on one key area, at other times on another.

Let’s break BUDDIE down a little more:

  1. B is for Build: Key relationships with peers and partners are absolutely critical to success, you’ll need their support.
  2. U for Understand: Become an expert about your organisation, what it does and the landscape it operates in so you can make the right decisions with the right context.
  3. D for Diagnose: What does your organisation need from data and what does it need for data to succeed?
  4. D for Deliver: Early and often delivery builds up your reputation and credibility.
  5. I is for Iterate: Make, measure, test and improve through incremental changes so you can keep demonstrating progress.
  6. E for Engage: Your peers, partners and stakeholders must be kept interested and committed so you can keep making change happen.

How to use your BUDDIE?

Now we know what BUDDIE stands for, how do we get the most of out of it?

Ideally when you step into your role as a data leader. That might be as a Chief Data Officer, Head of Data, Head of Insight, Director of Data or other title.

But what if you’re already in post? Then start now so you can plan how to re-orient yourself around the six key areas.

In your first 100 days (or if you’re re-orienting, your first steps):

  1. Start with BUILD. What relationships do you have now? Who are key people inside and outside your organisation? Who do you need to be introduced to and get on their radar? Who do you need to build rapport with for your work to succeed? Who are your key supporters, who’s neutral and who are your detractors? What do they care about? What are they working on right now? How can you help them? Make time to build and keep track key relationships so you have support when you need it.
  2. Begin to UNDERSTAND. As part of your onboarding into a new role, take time to really understand your organisation. This is basic business literacy. What does your organisation do? How does it do that? What’s the culture? What are the norms? How do things get done? What’s the ecosystem your organisation works in? How is data used right now? How does all of this impact the use of data? You’ll be building up your understanding of the organisation for a while, so be kind to yourself. It takes me around 9 months to find my feet in a large organisation. In the meantime, keep learning and using that knowledge for the next step.

Now pause. If you’ve been onboarding, you’ll likely need a break to reflect on all this knowledge you’ve gained and how you can best plan your time after your first 100 days or however long onboarding lasts. If you’ve been in role for some time, take a break from doing the re-orientation, finding gaps in your knowledge and filling them.

You are now ready to:

  1. Take the temperature of your organisation and DIAGNOSE. Only AFTER you’ve gained an understanding of your organisation and mapped the key relationships. By now you understand enough about the challenges the organisation is facing. Split your diagnoses into three areas: Now, Next and Later. What do you assume your organisation needs now? What are their immediate needs? What does your organisation need to meet their short term requirements? What do you they need next? What does the organisation need in the long term? What does your organisation need later? Remember, these are assumptions you’ll need to test through your next steps DELIVER and ITERATE.

At this point, it’s worth pausing again to check your assumptions with your allies — the people who want you to succeed and people who are neutral. If you are onboarding, it’s an excellent time to present your findings so far in the spirit of checking your understanding. If you are re-orienting, you can frame this as a reflection and that you’re checking you’re still on the right path.

  1. Start to DELIVER. As you plot your way from where you are now to where the organisation wants to be, you’ll need to deliver early and often. You can prime your audience during your BUILD, UNDERSTAND and DIAGNOSE by listening and incorporating feedback as you share what you’re learning and test your understanding and the assumptions in your diagnosis. By the time you start delivering strategic and tactical advantage, you’ll have built up a reputation of being focused on both delivery and engagement.
  2. Remember to ITERATE. Delivery and data usually involves change which can take a toll on people. By choosing to iterate and deliver regularly, you’ll get your stakeholders used to receiving valuable products and services and attuned to your delivery schedule. This can help reduce some of the discomfort associated with making change happen, especially if you’re introducing changes that affect how people behave like data governance initiatives or new processes. To keep people on board, the next area is key.
  3. Always ENGAGE. Making data useful is not just about delivering well researched products and services, it’s also about managing people’s expectations and encouraging them to new, more beneficial behaviours. Engaging is more than talking with people, it’s about demonstrating that even if you can’t give them what they want, they’ve been heard and their opinions are valued. This can be tricky to do when you have conflicting needs. Maintaining relationships is important enough for this area to remain high on your agenda so you have the support you need to deliver.

This is my first iteration of the BUDDIE system. What did you think? I’d love to know what went well, what could be better and what missed the mark for you. Get in touch through direct messages here or on twitter: @ekoner and let me know how you’re using your BUDDIE.



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.