The Starbucks Model Provides 4 Nuggets For CDO Success

According to market research firm Gartner, 2600 chief data officers (CDO) have been hired by companies worldwide and the firm predicts that half of them will not survive in the role. I was intrigued by these numbers and decided to write this article to share my experiences and learnings - to provide CDOs some nuggets that they can use to not just survive, but succeed in their role.

The CDO Challenge

The CDO role is relatively new and emerged in the last decade. It was primarily driven by complex regulatory compliance and risk management requirements and a general acknowledgment that data management and analytics are specialized fields that should be led by a c-level executive. This new executive would be a change agent - to introduce a data culture, break down silos, build centers of excellence to drive data semantics, data quality, governance, master data management, and analytics programs and provide data management standards, policies, and best practices across the enterprise.

It is a challenging role and takes a special type of leader. A CDO has to deal with not just the typical people, process, technology, and data domains but also plays a significant role in influencing culture change within the company.

The Starbucks Model

I happen to pass by Starbucks coffee shops on my way to consulting engagements and can't help but notice the long lines of customers patiently waiting to pick up their cup of joe. In many instances, I've noticed people carrying not just one but multiple cups of coffee, presumably to share with their colleagues.

It is clear that the Starbucks's model works - as reflected in its brand, its bottom line results, and the popularity of its beverages.

Starbucks's success is based on 5 key elements - value, variety, brand, destination, and innovation

Here's what the 5 elements mean: (1) Offer value to customers via a brand and products that signify sophistication and chic, (2) Provide a variety of beverages, coffees, and snacks with the best beans from around the world, (3) Build a premium brand by offering a more extensive menu and more product customization, which is reinforced by writing each customer's name on the side of his or her cup, (4) Become a destination for customers looking for a place to read, relax, or socialize with friends by providing an inviting decor, comfortable seating, and free internet access, and (5) Constantly reinvent and expand products and interior designs; to offer customers innovative loyalty incentives, such as rewards cards and mobile payment options; and to promote the greater good by, for instance, requesting gun owners in open-carry states not to bring guns into stores.

CDOs can emulate the Starbucks model to succeed and thrive in their roles

4 Nuggets for CDO Success

The Starbucks model provides these four nuggets that CDOs can utilize to gain credibility with their customers and gain traction with their peers:

  1. Focus on Value: Identify the areas within the business where the CDO organization can create value - sales and marketing, finance, risk management, compliance, revenue management are some areas that are prime targets. Offer a variety of services (via a service catalog) to the business leaders to address their tactical and strategic pain points. Back up the service catalog with service level agreements, guaranteed quality of service, and timely delivery.

  2. Build a Brand: Focus on creating a brand for the CDO organization and develop a catchy tagline to go with it. Enhance the brand appeal by regularly communicating the small and big wins to all stakeholders, so that the CDO organization is perceived as an organization that generates tangible value for the company.

  3. Become a Destination: As a services and solution provider, the CDO's aim should be to become a destination for customers looking for answers to any data-related question or solutions to data intensive business problems. This can only be accomplished by building the necessary people, process, and technology capabilities related to data semantics (e.g., data dictionary and glossaries), golden records (e.g., master data management), analytics (e.g., data science), and governance (e.g., processes to govern data and manage its quality and semantics).

  4. Constantly Innovate: Build a small innovation team that is tasked with developing proofs of concepts and prototypes that tackle enterprise problems using new technologies (e.g., Blockchain, IoT, virtual reality, gaming, etc). Highlight the innovation team's work and collaborate with business partners to take the promising ones to market.


We are living in the "Age of Data" and it's a great time to be in the data management and analytics fields. The data ecosystem tends to be complex and organizational dynamics and culture create some challenges from a change management perspective. However, CDOs are well positioned to become the value-creators for their companies if they are strategic about their service offerings and build a strong brand by delivering high-quality services and solutions to their customer base.

Click here if you would like to avail of a complimentary CDO Strategy session with our experts.

Go forth and conquer!

The only way to win with data is to become data-driven and data savvy. My books will guide you through this process. Order Data-Driven Leadership: A New Leadership Paradigm in the Digital Age and Data Driven Leaders Always Win: The Essential Guide For Leaders in the Age of Data and share their timely, universal, and powerful message with your personal and professional network.

About Jay Zaidi:

As the Founder and Managing Partner of AlyData, my firm and I help leaders derive tangible business value from their data and information assets — to power sales, marketing, innovation, product development, and risk management. Our clients include financial services, healthcare, biotech firms and federal agencies. I’ve led strategic data and analytics engagements at Fannie Mae, Citibank, Hilton Hotels, The DOW Chemical Company, Ohio Edison, Illinois Health and Science, IBA Molecular, and The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. To learn more or get in touch, visit

Or follow me on Twitter: @jayzaidi

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