Data Leadership – Algmin / Dataversity Book Review

FEA01x - edited feature imageThe author of the book “Data Leadership” Anthony J. Algmin has a unique perspective he brings to the table. I know him as a practitioner of data management disciplines, but he also has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.

When I first heard of the word Data Leadership, I assumed it was about how to organize yourself around data. But that is not at all what the author means by Data Leadership.

Data Leadership is about how each individual in an organization can be the leader to realize value from data.

The book is written in 3 parts. Part 1 is about laying the foundation about this subject of Data Leadership. Part 2 is a framework and how to implement Data Leadership in an organization. Part 3 is about taking action and discusses some of the tools and available techniques.

The author’s musings (there are quite a few) are based on real world experiences and his laments come from personal pain experienced by implementing data governance programs. He asks the question “Do companies really want to compete?” I have often wondered about that myself. We all talk about data being an asset and how valuable it is. Unfortunately, it takes time to extract value out of data. The author makes the point that data only has value when it makes a positive difference in business outcomes.

Anthony’s definition of data governance is the following: “Data governance is how we coordinate people to help our organizations get most from our data.” It is simple and uncomplicated. The book has an example of the author speaking to a regulator about how they come up with regulations. The answer of the regulator is very interesting. You have to read the book to find out. But the book is full of such insights that are funny, real, and usable.

Here is another quote from the foundations section “Data governance must be done in the context of something that matters to people.” I am in such a situation as a customer now, where it is difficult to find a use case to start with because there are so many of them. As data governance practitioners, it’s helpful to have a framework for starting a data governance program which will actually matter to people.

Part 2 of the book defines a framework that consists of 5 Data Leadership categories and 25 Data Leadership disciplines. First 10 disciplines are getting data ready to generate value and the last 15 are about extracting value. While the categories are general, the disciplines are actionable. I am not going to go into great detail about all the categories and disciplines here but know that there is enough meat in here for the reader to get going.

I do want to talk about the 5th category, which I feel is where most data governance programs fail, because IT resources are ill-equipped to execute it. It is the category that the author calls Alignment: Engage Stakeholders. Ah! that dreaded word: “Alignment.” I have always wondered why IT needs to align with business. Why can’t business align with IT? Anyway, I digress. The saying by the author, “If you build it, they will come” from Field of Dreams does not apply here. It is more like, “If you build it, they will run.” Here is where Data Leadership comes into play. “It is up to data leaders to introduce people to data-related capabilities and ensure that they have all the tools they need to be successful.”

The author prescribes the medicine in the form of 5 disciplines under Alignment. These are:

  1. Strategy, standards, and policies
  2. Project and program management
  3. Marketing and communication
  4. Organizational training and building quantitative culture
  5. Regulatory compliance

Ok. Now that the framework is defined, what do we do with it? That is what comes next.

Part 3 is about action. The author says that the higher up you go in an organization; the less important numbers get. I see that everywhere. Gut instinct or intuition is not a bad thing. Intuition is not a sixth sense. It is wisdom gained over the years by doing, failing, and succeeding. Unfortunately, intuition is not transferable. Insights based on numbers are.

The author lays out an action plan that involves people, processes, and technologies. This left me wanting more. I understand that every situation is different, but it would be useful to have more detailed examples of how someone can use the framework. I hope the author will follow-up this initial introduction to Data Leadership with additional materials that will help people put it to use in the real world.

Overall, this is a book that needs space in your bookshelf. The author is also readily available – he is always speaking at conferences, radio shows, and writing for various publications.

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About Kasu Sista

Kasu Sista is a Principal at The Wisdom Chain, LLC.

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