Upon Further Review – Data Governance Winter Conference 2016

fea02x-image-edAs I sit here, looking out over frosted rooftops, bundled in a sweater and sipping a steaming cup of tea, I’m reminiscing about my week in sunny Delray Beach, Florida, where I attended the 2016 Data Governance Winter Conference at the Delray Beach Marriott.

You know you’re not in Canada anymore, when the hotel lobby features a red-suited Santa Claus beside sand sculptures of children playing. This is a comfortable hotel with a beautiful pool area, ideal for a drink and a visit with fellow attendees. Best of all, it is located literally across the street from the beach. The soft sands and warm water made this long stretch of quiet beach a treat.

I arrived a day early, so I could stroll the beach and explore the town. The hotel is ideally placed at the crossroads of the beach and Atlantic Avenue, Delray’s main street. In addition to the patios across the street from the beach, there are many restaurants on and near Atlantic Avenue, as well as a variety of shops (from tacky to quirky to upscale), and galleries. Surprisingly, there are few chain stores or eateries, giving Delray Beach a unique character.

The next day, it was time to start learning. The conference had a good balance of sessions, from shorter presentations and panels, through half-day tutorials, to 2-day seminars. The presenters varied from leading data governance experts to practitioners who were here to share their success stories (and their learnings). The ~200 attendees ran the gamut of just starting data governance, to having a few years experience, to having implemented and maintained successful data governance programs for 10+ years. No shortage of perspectives here!

The first day was dedicated to half-day tutorials. In the morning, I chose a Big Data topic: “The Role of Data Governance in Big Data and Analytics – 10 Things Data Governance Can Do to Ensure Success”, presented by John Ladley from First San Francisco Partners. John is a well-known leader in the field of data governance and an excellent speaker. It was no surprise that I enjoyed his talk – the 3 hours flew by. His key message was that big data and analytics are not add-ons to, but rather an integral part of data governance; and he provided numerous tips on how to accomplish this.

In the afternoon, I chose “Superheroes Wanted, Capes Optional: Building a Strong Data Stewardship Community within your Organization”, presented by Erik Ferrone and Michael Nicosia from TIAA. This was an excellent, information-packed presentation on how to develop stewards from the ground up. It would be a good blueprint for anyone starting out, and for those in the process of building/maintaining their stewardship function!

Tuesday morning, I started the day with the Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO)’s winter meeting. Not being a member of DGPO, I took this opportunity to learn more about the organization. It was time well spent! They gave an overview of their activities over the last year, which included revamping the website. Anne Buff walked us through the Communication portion of their Best Practices Repository. While not fully completed (e.g. they are still adding sample documents that can be used as templates), I can see it already providing significant value to DG professionals! In addition to the members-only content, DGPO also provides public services (including bi-monthly webinars, to ‘advertise’ DG to the non-converted). I was sold on the value, and joined the group as soon as I got home!

By the way, the DGPO turned 5 this year. They celebrated with cake in the exhibit hall (while tech-neutral, the conference hosts a vendor show so you can learn about some of the technical and consulting resources available to DG initiatives. A wine-and-cheese at the vendor show on Tuesday evening provided further opportunity to meet the vendors and fellow attendees).

Tuesday morning’s keynote featured two very well-known data governance practitioners, Barbara Deemer and Michele Koch from Navient. They presented the success factors behind their 10+ year DG program, using the Olympics as a unifying theme. It was an inspiring perspective of what is possible, and how to succeed.

The next day and a half was filled with shorter presentations and panels, including many case studies covering the gamut from soft skills (such as cultural considerations, communication) through current challenges (such as internet of things and data lakes). Plenty of content for everyone’s tastes!

The final keynote was a panel, “The Future of Data Governance”. The panelists discussed a variety of factors that will make DG more relevant than ever, not least being the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR, that comes into effect in May 2018, impacts data protection for European individuals – not just for European countries, but any countries that deal with Europeans. If this isn’t on your radar, now would be a good time to learn more about it!

I wrapped up my conference experience with a half-day session devoted to “The Art and Science of Data Quality Metrics”, presented by Danette McGilvray from Granite Falls. I’ve attended her presentations before, and she never disappoints, providing strong, practical content in a clear, well-organized fashion.   This tutorial not only covered the metrics themselves, but included the lifecycle from why you’re creating them through to how they’ll be used (or misused – design your metrics well or you may get what you asked for, not what you want).

The last two days were devoted to two-day seminars, allowing for a deeper dive into specific topics of data quality and data stewardship. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, but from prior experience I know that these are well worth the time!

Finally, in addition to all the scheduled sessions, I really enjoyed my discussions with fellow attendees. With roughly 200 attendees, this is a smaller, more personal conference, where I found it easier to meet and get to know fellow practitioners. We enjoyed discussing sessions we’d attended, sharing information about sessions we’d missed, participating in data governance therapy (i.e. commiserating over our personal experiences), and sharing tips about speakers, books, seminars, tools, etc.

Add well-organized conference staff and delicious food (the lunches were the best I’ve ever had at a conference), and the result was a highly successful event.

My recommendations to you? Join the DGPO organization if you haven’t already, so you can take advantage of their webinars and other content. And plan on coming to a DG conference next year, whether the DGIQ Conference in San Diego this June or the DG Winter Conference later in 2017. It will be time well spent — hope to see you there!

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About Corine Jansonius

Corine Jansonius has recently retired from Shell Canada after 27 years, many of which were spent practicing and advocating data modelling, data architecture and data quality. She is the founder of the Alberta Data Architecture Community, and an avid supporter of other local data groups including the new Calgary DAMA chapter. She is currently taking a 'gap year' to spend more time on her hobbies (learning new languages, volunteering, playing piano and bridge), while continuing to enjoy data-related events from Edmonton through to Florida.

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