Which type of “Head of Data” are you? | by Louise de Leyritz | Aug, 2022

The roles hidden behind the “Head of Data” title

The completely different “Head of Data” Roles — Image courtesy of Castor

In the previous couple of years, we’ve seen an explosion within the quantity of Heads of Data. As this position has advanced, so too have the categories of individuals who are getting into this place. So what sort of individual ought to change into an information chief? Well, there isn’t a simple reply to that. The job of a Head of Data just isn’t one-size-fits-all, and neither are the individuals who fill this position.

There is an issue with how this job title is used. Because the time period “Head of Data” is used so loosely, you’ll be able to’t actually inform what an organization is searching for. They could also be searching for a Business Intelligence chief or an information engineering chief. Or possibly they need each! Maybe they’re simply searching for a unicorn. Or possibly they don’t know what they need in any respect. This results in confusion amongst staff who don’t know the place they match into this mannequin, and likewise makes it tough for corporations to rent the correct individuals for his or her wants. This article is right here to Help get everybody on the identical web page.

Most of the time, when an organization declares that they want a “Head of Data,” they will both imply that they want:

  1. A BI chief or supervisor: Someone who is aware of methods to make sense of information by bringing readability to Business issues or alternatives
  2. A Data Engineering chief: Someone who is nice at ensuring that information is correct and accessible based on IT requirements

These are two very completely different roles. I agree that they will typically overlap, however they often require differing kinds of individuals, carrying completely different varieties of hats. How can you determine which type of Head of Data you need to be? The background/skillset wanted? We cowl all of it right here.

Data engineering leaders and BI leaders have completely different obligations — Image courtesy of Castor.


The information engineering chief is the one that makes it doable for information scientists to do their jobs. They work with engineers and information analysts to be sure that the corporate’s information infrastructure is scalable, dependable, safe, and cost-effective.

The engineering chief focuses on constructing the technical spine of the info science workforce and group. They work behind the scenes to make analytics work doable. They’re tasked with making a information pipeline that’s scalable, automated, safe, and auditable from finish to finish. Their work could contain constructing new instruments or processes for information engineering (e.g., ETL jobs), infrastructure administration (e.g., monitoring), and safety and governance (e.g., privateness insurance policies). When the group is mature sufficient, engineering leaders may interact in Data Science and Machine studying. If you’re on this position your self, you possible put on a number of hats directly: prioritizing initiatives; main groups of engineers; speaking with different departments about what they will count on out of your division shifting ahead -all whereas maintaining with {industry} traits to maintain your group aggressive. We dive deeper into every class.

Data Engineering

A key duty of the engineering chief is to oversee and optimize the information integration course of. Data integration refers back to the exercise of combining information from completely different sources right into a single supply of fact: the info warehouse. It is step one within the information engineering lifecycle, and it may be performed utilizing ETL instruments. Data engineers are usually answerable for finishing this job, however it could even be accomplished by a mixture of Business analysts, information scientists, and software program builders. The information engineering is answerable for:

  • Ensuring there are ample sources to assist the pipeline always.
  • Tracking and monitoring capability utilization for every element within the pipeline, together with storage, compute, community bandwidth, and latency issues.
  • Review efficiency metrics frequently to determine points earlier than they change into vital issues.

Infrastructure administration

As an engineering chief, attending to the main points of information infrastructure isn’t any choice. This means understanding how your information is saved, the way it strikes round your system, and how one can get it into the correct form to research. Data engineering leaders must know what instruments are accessible for working with the info. They also needs to have a working data of how these instruments work below the hood to allow them to make knowledgeable choices on when they need to be used, or which options could be value incorporating into current instruments. Data infrastructure instruments have been proliferating prior to now few years, and it has change into very laborious to maintain monitor of the ecosystem. We’ve pulled collectively a information for simplifying functions. Don’t hesitate to test it out.

Security and governance

Security & governance are additionally the each day bread of an information engineering chief.

  • Data governance is a set of processes that ensures that information property are managed in an environment friendly method. In the context of information engineering, this implies guaranteeing that you’ve got a plan for methods to deal with your information, methods to monitor its high quality, and who will use it. Data high quality is a measure of the accuracy, relevance, and timeliness of information. It’s additionally a measure of its usefulness in supporting Business processes. information high quality program will be sure that all of your group’s info is up-to-date and correct earlier than getting used by any functions or providers (i.e., customers). This can Help scale back errors inside your organization in addition to save time (and Money) when you must repair issues afterward down the road.
  • Data safety & privateness: as the info engineer chief, you’re answerable for guaranteeing that your programs adhere to safety requirements. This means maintaining with industry-leading instruments and protocols to make sure your organization’s delicate info is protected against hackers and different malicious actors. Remember: each time you make a change or deploy an replace to 1 of your programs, there’s an opportunity it might compromise the privateness of these utilizing them.

The information engineering chief place stories to the CTO and contains main a workforce of information engineers. Data engineers are answerable for storing and processing information, constructing and sustaining information pipelines, and creating ETL jobs that load information into programs of report (SOR). They additionally work with information scientists to grasp methods to scale and optimize the SOR in an effort to assist Business wants.

The engineering chief often has a background in laptop science, software program engineering, or equal expertise. They even have expertise main groups of builders, which might embody managing groups remotely or in individual.

The information engineering chief is answerable for constructing out the expertise roadmap and guaranteeing that it aligns with the corporate’s Business technique. This contains organising an agile course of (like Scrum) to handle releases, working with prospects to outline necessities, writing technical specs, reviewing code written by different builders, and doing all of this whereas maintaining a tally of prices and sustaining high quality management.

The mission of the info engineering chief is to finally present clear and dependable information to different stakeholders within the firm. The key metrics to measure his success are thus principally associated to information high quality and embody information accuracy, consistency, completeness, and reliability. The information engineering chief can be answerable for good information administration throughout the firm, and for automating processes to extend productiveness. A pure consequence of automation and good information administration is infrastructure price financial savings. This can be a pleasant metric to take a look at in the event you’re in search of to guage your efficiency as an information chief. We’ve compiled a small information explaining how these metrics work and methods to measure them.

The BI chief’s mission is to make use of information to drive Business outcomes. That can imply something from serving to an organization make higher choices, to optimizing income and revenue, to enhancing buyer expertise. The information Business chief is an individual who may not be very technical however has robust Business data. They can perceive methods to align the technical workforce with what the Business needs and wishes.

The BI chief is answerable for the success or failure of their group’s information initiatives, however they don’t must be an professional on how each instrument works or be capable of clarify it intimately. They must understand how issues work as an entire and what targets every division has in thoughts, however not essentially how these targets might be achieved utilizing particular strategies.

Business Intelligence leaders’ mission is to leverage information to drive Business worth. In a approach, they are extra instantly in contact with ROI technology. Concretely, they combat for 3 issues: Data discovery, operationalization, and metrics alignment.


Data discovery is the method of discovering, understanding, and utilizing information to make choices. To achieve success at data-driven decision-making, you want a strong information discovery course of in place.

With information discovery as half of your common Business processes (and never simply an afterthought), you’ll end up making higher choices sooner than ever earlier than!

Data discovery begins with asking questions on what you need to obtain. In different phrases, it’s not sufficient to have entry to all the knowledge in your group; it’s vital to understand how that info can be utilized as properly. Data discovery ensures that individuals from completely different groups and teams work collectively on gathering and analyzing information to ensure that everybody concerned to grasp what they’re working with — whether or not they’re making an attempt out a brand new product concept or which promoting marketing campaign has carried out greatest up to now this yr.

Metrics alignment

The BI chief additionally enforces company-wide alignment round metrics. Without robust processes round metrics, the latter find yourself being unfold out throughout spreadsheets, inside dashboards, and information instruments. Reporting supposedly easy metrics similar to income can change into very tough as a result of a number of definitions and a lack of belief within the information. Fragmented systemleads to workforce disagreements about definitions, possession, and accuracy of metrics.

In order to make sure that metrics are being managed constantly throughout the corporate, you are able to do the next:

  • Write documentation for any framework or codebase you create. If you have already got invested in an information catalog instrument, you’ll be able to doc your metrics within the part devoted to this function.
  • Ensure that every one departments in your group use a metrics retailer. This ought to be a instrument the place they will doc their metrics, and it ought to assist visualization in order that customers can have a look at traits over time. You also needs to implement good documentation practices to assist your data staff’ entry to information.


If information engineer leaders search to supply clear information to the remaining of the corporate, information Business leaders’ mission is to operationalize this information. Operationalization is an strategy consisting of making information accessible to “operational” groups (gross sales, Marketing, ..). We distinguish it from the extra classical strategy of utilizing information just for reporting and Business intelligence. Instead of utilizing information to affect long-term technique, operational analytics inform technique for the day-to-day operations of the Business. To put it merely, it’s placing the corporate’s information to work so everybody in your group could make smarter, sooner choices.

Operationalizing information might be achieved solely as soon as information discovery is already half of your common Business processes, and never only a mere afterthought. Operational groups are not at all times used to working with information. Domain specialists will solely use information as half of their each day operations, independently from technical groups when you have enforced a robust information discovery course of.

Usually, placing information within the arms of different groups requires investing in a rock-solid information documentation instrument. This will guarantee firm information is:

  • Easy to search (together with by your self) permitting all departments to entry info once they want it.
  • Easy to perceive: customers can rapidly perceive what exists inside every desk of their supply system(s).

These three pillars are intertwined. You can’t have information operationalization with out information discovery or metrics alignment. BI leaders often push these three initiatives in parallel.

A BI chief often has a background in both Marketing/gross sales or product administration. They have expertise working with prospects and understanding what they need to obtain. They perceive methods to translate that into actionable objects for his or her workforce. The secret is that they’ve lived within the trenches themselves and know what it takes to make issues occur in the true world — not simply on paper.

They even have sufficient technical data to grasp what the engineers are doing and why they are doing it. They are in a position to articulate what they are doing and why it issues. They know to set targets, measure progress and maintain individuals accountable for reaching outcomes.

Data Business leaders impression variables that are barely tougher to quantify than these of information engineering leaders. You can have a look at the proportion of documented datasets to guage the invention efforts, however it’s tougher to measure the alignment round metrics. A pleasant approach to measure information operationalization is to take a look at the quantity of issues you enable different groups to unravel independently. For instance, when the info workforce is comparatively younger, it would get lots of requests from the Marketing workforce about attribution. As information democratization improves, with operational groups accessing the info simply, the necessity to depend on the info workforce to unravel attribution points decreases. The Marketing workforce turns into extra impartial in fixing this sort of drawback, finally driving the quantity of attribution-related requests to zero. measure of how properly you’re operationalizing your information is to have a look at the discount within the quantity of requests in varied classes. This metric measures precisely the extent to which the Business is enabled to make use of information. And the extra you’ll be able to tick issues off the listing, the extra your information is operationalized.

It’s not that there isn’t a task referred to as “Head of Data,” it’s simply that it doesn’t really exist in most corporations.

Instead, what occurs is that when an organization decides they want somebody to take cost of their information, they often attain out to 2 very completely different roles: BI leaders and information engineering leaders. The drawback is that these roles don’t have anything to do with each other! Defining particularly the sort of profile you are searching for is tough for an organization. Companies searching for a Head of Data are usually simply searching for somebody who can’t Help them make sense of all this information mess. But there may be extra granularity to this, and everybody would acquire from corporations clarifying which position they take into account precisely within the hiring course of.‍

We write about all of the processes concerned when leveraging information property: from the trendy information stack to information groups composition, to information governance. Our weblog covers the technical and the much less technical features of creating tangible worth from information. If you’re an information chief and wish to focus on these matters in additional depth, be part of the neighborhood we’ve created for that!

At Castor, we are constructing an information documentation instrument for the Notion, Figma, Slack technology.

Or data-wise for the Fivetran, Looker, Snowflake, DBT aficionados. We designed our catalog software program to be straightforward to make use of, pleasant and pleasant.

Want to test it out? Reach out to us and we are going to present you a demo.

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