The Data Manifesto: A TDAN.com Interview

ART03x - image - EDThe Leader’s Data Manifesto was introduced at Enterprise Data World (EDW) 2017 in Atlanta, GA. This TDAN.com interview took place with two of the primary contributors to the manifesto; Tom Redman (TCR) and Kelle O’Neal (KZO). The study group that completed the manifesto included Tom, Kelle, John Ladley, Danette McGilvray and James Price. Thank you Tom and Kelle for participating in this interview.

To see a copy of The Leader’s Data Manifesto in it’s entirety, click here.

Tom and Kelle, Please provide an introduction to the Leader’s Data Manifesto and share how the Manifesto will help people to understand how and why it was produced.

TCR: We didn’t set out to draft a manifesto. I suppose we started as a “study group” as much as anything. We wanted to understand why progress in the data space seems so slow. After all, there are plenty of great examples: in quality, governance, analytics, and so forth. But very few companies can truly claim they “manage data assets” or are really “data-driven.” We wanted to understand why progress was so slow.

Only as we wrote up our results and next steps did it occur to us that we might be on to something more powerful than a simple report.

KZO: We all felt that there was an impact that we could have as a group, which was beyond what we were doing as individuals. We didn’t start our study group knowing the answer. As we completed the analysis, the manifesto seemed a natural and logical answer to the question “So what are you going to do about it?”

As a group of data professionals that spend most of their day thinking about how best to answer that question within their own worlds, this was a collaborative way to get a broader group to rally around the cause.

How did you determine the group of individuals that were involved in drafting The Leader’s Data Manifesto?

TCR: As I noted before, the writing group was simply our study group, with one exception. Doug Laney participated in the study. But given his role at Gartner, he didn’t feel signing the manifesto was appropriate.

KZO: We volunteered! Since we tend to see each other at various conferences, it started in one of those get-togethers.

What was the purpose of creating the manifesto and who are your primary and secondary audiences?

TCR: I suspect that the motivations for each of us were different, so I’ll just speak for myself. For a very long time now, its been clear to me that a growing economy; better health care; a freer, safer, more just society; and everything else I hold dear all depend on better data and men and women who can put that data to work. But the uptake has been mighty slow! For me, then, one audience is “data people.” It’s time to get out from behind our computers and make something happen.

The other audience is even more important and it includes everyone who touches data. Success depends on these people. And I include clerks, financial analysts, doctors, middle managers, lawyers, young people starting their careers, teachers, and yes, senior executives and Boards, in this group. You simply have to demand more – and do more. Let me narrow the focus to quality for a minute. Bad data costs the US $3T/year (link). It’s time to grow really intolerant of this!

KZO: I would agree with Tom. We all had individual motivations, but we all agreed that something more needed to be done – and more still needs to be done. Personally, I was interested in participating in a group of thought leaders to increase awareness and action to elevate the importance of good data practices to all types of organizations. This is already done through conferences, publications, etc. We wanted to try something new and “light a fire” to re-energize people and the industry.

How do you believe the manifesto will impact the data management industry today and moving forward?

TCR: Frankly, too much data management today is simply wrong-headed. When did it become okay to purchase a tool to control data errors and fail to eliminate their root causes?   Or to settle for what passes as architecture in most companies. I can go on and on with such examples. The data management industry needs to realize that “management means management” and this implies working with others; focusing on the most important data, problems, and opportunities; getting the right people, structures, and cultures in place; and becoming way more pro-active. This may be too much to ask in the near-term, but the data management industry simply must embrace this thinking. Too much is at stake.

KZO: Because this is The Leader’s Data Manifesto, we believe the manifesto will ignite leadership to get more involved in managing data. Data is no longer just a by-product of computers and it needs to be managed as you would other assets in an organization (as Tom indicated). Our goal is to encourage people to think about managing data as a leadership opportunity, in the same way as managing people or portfolios. And to encourage leaders across organizations to think broadly about their management approaches, not just buying a tool to fix a problem in their data.

Of course we have seen the elevation of the Chief Data Officer role, and that is encouraging. Our goal is to engage other leaders to recognize the role of data in their operations and therefore their role in managing their data. Data Management should be an inherent part of any organization, like Human Capital Management or Financial Management. Moving forward, we want the industry to see that and invest accordingly in the right practices.

How should organizations use the manifesto, and what impact do you think the manifesto will have on organizations that sign the document?

TCR: We wrote the manifesto hoping organizations would use it to set a high standard, debate it internally, align people up and down the organization chart, and crystallize their plans. Obviously we hope people will sign it, but doing so is subordinate to getting on with the work.

KZO: Absolutely! Use it as a conversation starter and a way to create your own principles and beliefs around data and what it means to your organization.

Is there any additional information you would like to provide about The Leaders’ Data Manifesto or even words to encourage people to read it and adopt the language in their organization?

TCR: Look, this takes courage. I hope our manifesto helps people and groups have the courage to advance data in their companies.

KZO: I cannot agree more. Business is changing and you are either part of the change or are impacted by the change. Be part of the change, lead by example, and get on with the work.

Thank you, Tom and Kelle, for answering my questions. The Leader’s Data Manifesto is a great thing for the data management industry and something that I hope you and your colleagues will use in your organizations.

Tom’s bio:

Tom Redman, the “Data Doc,” helps companies, including many of the Fortune 100, improve data quality.  Those that follow his innovative approaches enjoy the many benefits of far-better data, including far lower cost.  He is the author of Getting In Front on Data: The Who Does What (Technics Publications, 2016) and Data Driven (Harvard Business Review, 2008).  His articles have appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and MIT Sloan Management Review.  Tom started his career at Bell Labs, where he led the Data Quality Lab.  He has a Ph.D. is in Statistics and two patents.

Kelle’s bio:

Kelle O’Neal is Founder and CEO of First San Francisco Partners, an Enterprise information Management (EIM) consulting firm. A veteran leader and accomplished advisor in the information management sector, as well as a speaker, author and trainer, Kelle is passionate about helping organizations apply data intelligence to gain a true competitive advantage.

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About Tom Redman

Tom Redman, the “Data Doc,” helps companies, including many of the Fortune 100, improve data quality. Those that follow his innovative approaches enjoy the many benefits of far-better data, including far lower cost. He is the author of Getting In Front on Data: The Who Does What (Technics Publications, 2016) and Data Driven (Harvard Business Review, 2008). His articles have appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and MIT Sloan Management Review. Tom started his career at Bell Labs, where he led the Data Quality Lab. He has a Ph.D. is in Statistics and two patents.

  • Chris Pehura

    I’m all for manifestos as long as they consider both the systemic and cultural sides of data. There was blip about people, not nearly at the depth that me or my people advocate.

    • Richord1

      I agree!

      From the singular data perspective, all problems appear to
      be solvable with better data. No doubt data management is poorly executed in
      most organizations. But data plays a very small part in problems such as
      healthcare, a just society and a growing economy. These issues are social issues
      and require systemic change that is more about people’s beliefs and behaviors.

      Our current approach to data ignores the social fabric of organizations.
      The politics, the behaviors and beliefs. This is a technocratic approach. Data is
      the in the realm of IT who are ill equipped to solve the human factor challenges.
      The non-technical staff are also ill equipped to manage data, preferring to
      punt to IT. This lack of maturity with data is because of Data Illiteracy.

      Leadership’s primary value is building cooperating,
      sustainable coalitions of people. Organizations are not “data driven” they are
      people driven. Data has no emotions,
      insights, novelty or value without the creatively of humans.

      Data will not impact healthcare in any significant way until
      there is a desire to provide healthcare as a human right. This is a social contract,
      not a data issue.

      I think that leadership in data should be in the hands of sociologists
      and librarians rather than technologists. I suggest their manifesto would be significantly
      different.

      • Chris Pehura

        When doing anything regarding policy, especially with healthcare, data is always going to be collected to prioritize and draft the policy. The question is will the policy be drafted using rhetoric or by using hard facts and data. The problem I’m seeing is that there is a lot of fake data out there. So much that people can’t recognize what the real data even looks like.

        Examples of fake data include data associated around –
        – Gender identity
        – Feminism
        – Black Lives Matter
        – Islamophobia
        – President Trump
        – Mainstream media

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