Network Rail CDO

An Oakland Group Case Study

The Challenge

Network Rail own, operate and develop Britain’s railway infrastructure. That’s 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings, and stations. They also run 20 of the UK’s largest stations.

As a business they identified information as one of their most significant corporate risks and had recently appointed a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to meet this challenge. Whilst the CDO was senior in status, she required a supporting team and infrastructure to assist the new role.

How We Did It

Embedding a CDO function takes an understanding of both the technical landscape and, more importantly, the business context. Network Rail is an incredibly complex organisation, and we recognised the importance of navigating the first few months carefully.

Amongst the many potential opportunities, we worked to understand the immediate priorities for the CDO. At this stage we also established a ‘data governance’ baseline against a ‘best of breed’ information governance framework. This was loosely based on MIKE2.0 but with input from other models, such as DAMA.

We also developed a community of advocates, which helped bring together the loose team already in place. These advocates were then better able to exploit the considerable technical expertise of the existing team and their knowledge of Network Rail.

We then developed the governance structures required for the future with a focus on how these could integrate with the underlying drivers of the business. It was essential that the business started to take ownership for the quality and development of its data. To ensure this, accountabilities were given to key leaders, and a team of technical experts were put in place to provide the detail and support as required

The Outcome

  • We helped successfully deliver the CDO function into the business.
  • The overall business case and approach for the CDO was greenlighted and acted as a catalyst for much of the work that followed.
  • The CDO, Caroline Carruthers, captured many of the learning points in her book, ‘The CDO Playbook’.