Many Flavors of DGIQ – 2018 Conference Recap

FEA01x - edited feature imageThis June, I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 Data Governance and Information Quality (DGIQ) conference in San Diego at the Catamaran Resort Hotel, for the second year in a row.  It’s a winning combination of location (at a tropical resort located on a sheltered bay, just off the ocean) and content.

This year’s DGIQ conference was bigger than ever. A record attendance of 600+ people filled the Catamaran to capacity, with overflow housed just down the road in the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay.

Just like last year, the weather was lovely. Lunch was enjoyed outside, bay-front, every day. It was a treat to share a drink on the patio or a walk down the beach, discussing data governance, data quality, and more, with fellow attendees. DGIQ attracts a combination of industry experts and practitioners at all levels, from both business and IT, leading to interesting discussions and learnings.

DGIQ 2018 included a wide-range of half-day and 1-day tutorials, and attendees could stay a few days longer to learn even more, at 2-day seminars on data stewardship or data quality.

The keynotes were presented by some of the best practitioners in the industry.

All keynote presenters and panelists were leaders at their companies and were articulate, interesting, and informative; and all provided insights into their success that anyone could (and should!) take back to their own jobs.  Videos of the keynotes, panels and some session can be viewed for free, by visiting I’ve also included a few highlights from each presentation, later in this article.

I really appreciate that DGIQ offers a broad range of sessions, including soft skills.  Data governance cannot succeed without influencing people and dealing with conflict (coincidentally 2 topics at DGIQ 2018, both very informative and very well attended). And to top it off, an early-morning beachfront session of Zen with Len, relating meditation to DG (for example, to stop, make mental space, make room for new information).  Perfect way to be refreshed and ready for another day of learning!

One of the toughest parts of this conference was deciding which sessions to attend. With 3-5 concurrent sessions in every time slot, there was a wealth of choices.  I’m looking forward to reading more slide decks and watching videos (of some sessions, available online to the general public!).

This is the best event I know of to get a solid week of data governance and information quality immersion, coming out with a stronger sense of what’s possible and how to hone initiatives back home.

I’m grateful for having attended DGIQ 2018, and I look forward to attending future conferences. I’d highly recommend you consider the same, with DGIQ 2019 in San Diego at the Catamaran Resort, or the DG Winter Conference in Florida this December!

Flavors of DGIQ 2018

To give you a flavor of the conference, and possibly some takeaways, I’ve listed a few highlights of the sessions I attended. Note that these only scratch the surface; you’d have to attend the sessions (or get a much fuller readout) to do them proper justice.

Conference Keynotes

The conference opened with “Advice from a Chief Data Officer” by James Tyo (Chief Data Officer, Nationwide). It showcased a company that is creating new opportunities from data. Nationwide started in insurance, now they strive to be a leading technology company in the insurance sector, using data to try to delight customers with experiences they’d never imagined!

James covered many facets of their successful DG program. Communication plays a big part, e.g. creating “Data in 60 Seconds” KISS videos that are short, snappy, and informative. When it comes to people, they focus on getting the right staff supporting data governance and they consider all the consumers (while the data scientists get a lot of attention, there’s a far greater number of general information workers who also need good data!).

This was followed by a keynote on how to “Connect at the Data Layer and Transform your Business” by Helen Arnold (President, SAP Data Network). While companies are becoming more data driven, the current reality shows that most are falling short. 80% of time is spent preparing data, 15% of Hadoop projects deploy to production, and only 27% of executives say their big data project is successful. SAP Data Network has developed a successful 4-month project cycle to deliver results.

Scott Buckles (Business Unit Executive, Unified Governance and Integration, IBM) gave a keynote on “Converting Compliance to Competitive Advantage.” He clearly conveyed the importance of data: “We now live in a data economy.” Know, trust, and use your data. Govern not just for compliance, but for insight. Those who monetize their data will thrive. Those that don’t will struggle to survive.

He presented compelling arguments for caring about data, and about the quality of the data.  He gave examples of advances in technology that will support monetization. For example, containers for IT – just as shipping was revolutionized by standardized shipping containers, IT could be revolutionized by standardized OS-level virtualization.

The “Winner of the Annual DGPO Data Governance Best Practice Award”, Dun & Bradstreet, was represented by keynote speaker Kevin Shannon.

First, hats off to the DGPO (Data Governance Professionals Organization) for hosting an annual contest where a panel of DG industry leaders assess the entries and choose the winners of the DG Best Practice Award. This year had 13 entries. 3rd place went to The Arkansas Insurance Department, 2nd place to Freddie Mac, and 1st place to Dun & Bradstreet. The latter was invited to present a keynote session at this conference (all submissions are available to DGPO members on the DGPO website!)

My favorite quote was to “Keep it real.” No ivory tower. Make DG transparent. Engage with the business, so they understand and buy-in.

Being a global company, Dun & Bradstreet have to manage the challenges of global vs. local data requirements (e.g. single language vs. local language, reporting across countries vs. within a country, etc.).  They’ve developed ways of dealing with this, such as creating global policies with local variances and adding local policies as needed; classifying data into 5 classes (e.g. to know what needs encrypting), etc.

They are building Data Quality Insights (DQI) dashboard with metrics based on GQM (Goal, Question, Metrics, thus avoiding two common mistakes: too many metrics, no story associated with a metric), writing a tool to pull metadata out of silos and rationalize it (they are putting a lot of effort into Metadata Quality, Data Quality is not enough), and they are starting to collaborate with partners to address DG together.

This only scratches the surface of Kevin’s presentation, it’s clear Dun & Bradstreet deserve the DGPO Best Practice Award!

The conference wrapped up with a panel on “Emerging and Future Trends in Data Governance” with Moderator Anthony Algmin (Independent Consultant), and Panelists Anne Buff (DGPO), Sunil Soares (Information Asset), Ho Chun Ho (JLL), and Rex Ahlstrom (BackOffice Associates).

Emerging trends include non-technical innovations such as collaboration between companies and crowd-sourcing, and technical advances like tools that incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate some data steward tasks.

The EU’s GDPR continues to be a hot topic, with countries like Russia and China adding further wrinkles to the global DG landscape. Ethics and the risks of data use (e.g. see “Weapons of Math Destruction” by Cathy O’Neil) continue to be a concern.

On a more positive note, data governance is getting better traction through building business cases for analytics, building data catalogues for data scientists, and otherwise proving the value by tying data governance to business strategies, making it real.

Conference Tutorials

My first tutorial covered real examples of DG success and failure, with John Ladley’s (San Francisco Partners) “Data Governance Value and Sustainability – 4 Case Studies to Learn From.” Before launching into the case studies, he set the stage by describing what’s behind sustainable data governance (e.g. practical solutions, business alignment, sponsors and stewards that “walk the talk”), and conversely the obstacles to making data governance operational. Three of John’s case studies were success stories, companies who embodied many of John’s success factors (and when they made mistakes, learned and moved on).  The 4th was a different story – DG was run as a project, no time taken for business alignment, they staffed the DG function with consultants, leadership wasn’t interested, there was no organization change management, everything was a ‘guideline’… Enough said…

On a different note, Mike McMorrow (MMM Data Perspectives Ltd), covered soft skills in “Data Governance Meets Psychology 101 – How to Influence Individuals Within Organizations.

This session was an interesting, entertaining (and sometimes sobering) look at how people can be influenced.  Some strategies are remarkably simple, such as:

  • Using ‘because’ – this word will increase compliance, even if the reason isn’t particularly relevant!
  • Feeding people, they’re more amenable (especially if the food/drink is hot)
  • Getting a public commitment – greater likelihood of follow through
  • Doing favors – as people will want to return the favor

For the last day of DGIQ, I opted for another soft skills offering, “Comprehensive Conflict Management Framework for Data Governance”, with Len Silverston. Using stories and exercises, Len illustrated various techniques for dealing with difficult situations. He talked about trust (you need to build trust with stakeholders, if you’re asking them to trust you with their data), space (step back, don’t react emotionally, when you encounter a problem), and motivation (understanding your motivation first, and then the other’s motivation). His exercise on trust, in a few short minutes, built relationships that we took away from the classroom, and further developed on the patio after class. I’ve since continued applying the concepts of space, trust and active listening to achieve better outcomes for myself and those around me.

Conference Sessions

One track at DGIQ focused on Special Interest Groups. I chose the SIG for Energy, “Considerations in Governing an Internet of Things Data Lake“, with Mariela Botella (ExxonMobil) and Sunil Soares (Information Asset). ExxonMobil presented their solution to managing large volumes of IoT data coming in from various sites in various formats.  They want all the global data gathered in one place, in one format, to increase the time end-users can spend on analysis rather than data gathering and cleansing.  They’ve designed an organized data lake to meet various user needs, including zones for source (the raw data as it came in), transformed (curated, single version of the truth), published (end-consumer), and analytics (for sandboxes), staging, and archive. I admire the thought that has gone into the design, this is the tidiest data lake I’ve encountered (though admittedly, my experience is rather limited).

The Data Governance Professionals Organization held their DGPO Annual Summer Meeting early Tuesday morning.  Anne Buff, the VP Communications, presented “Mind Your P’s to Manage Your Q’s: How Policies and Procedures Can Help Keep Everyone on Their Best Behavior.” Her premise (creatively crafted): “We just have to mind our P’s and P’s (policies and procedures) to manage our Q’s (questions, queues, quests, quality, and even our quirks)”.  Process is one of the 6 best practices covered by the Data Governance Best Practices (DGBP).  FYI, DGPO members can access the DGBP and more on the DGPO website (I highly recommend joining if you haven’t already!)

One of my favourite metrics for DG was presented by John Ladley (First San Francisco Partners), in “Leveraging Data Debt – a Powerful Concept for Proving the Value of Data Management and Data Governance.” Data debt is a powerful metaphor for communicating and prioritizing decisions around data intensive efforts. It is a metric of what it will cost to put off something that is required, it is a liability.  For example, if projects don’t use (and contribute to) the enterprise glossary, the organization will pay ‘interest’ on that debt. Projects take too long, they have added cost, mistakes are made in sourcing data, and individuals misunderstand data in systems or reports.  John presented a case study where the tracking of data debt eventually led to management insisting project managers not allow data debt on projects. The outcome, after 18 months, has been a better track record of projects delivered on time, on budget!

 “Sorry About That, eh! Data Governance and Quality Strategies: Real World Implementation and Lessons Learned and Culture Change in a Canadian Federal Government Context” by Darren Goodyear (Refugees and Citizenship Canada), was a delightfully Canadian presentation, with one of my favorite presentation titles. He provided great examples of DQ challenges (including the problems arising from translating/transliterating names from Arabic through Turkish to English). My favorite quotes: “Good data has value, bad data has consequences”, and “Good policy is impossible without good data”. This government department is changing its data culture from focusing on quick data entry to building their data capacity. For example, embedding data quality in projects and initiatives, working with IT to ensure data quality by design in their project lifecycle and ensuring business owners consider data investments in new proposals.

I started the next morning with a panel on “Best Practices for Sustaining a Data Governance Program from Experienced Practitioners” with Moderator Len Silverston (Universal Data Models), and Panelists Shannon Fuller (Gray Matter Analytics), Susan Yamin (Ally Financial Inc.), Michael Smith (Citi Bank), and Cynthia Parsons (Nationwide). Many of the themes from the session shared a common thread of communication and innovation. For example, innovative ways to get attention included

  • Creating a slide built from actual newspaper headlines of data disasters; bringing this to meetings with executives to get their attention
  • Finding a problem and telling the impacted folks how you can help address it (Internal Audit is a good source, go to their meetings and listen for data problems)
  • Aligning with strategic goals (supporting what the executives care about)
  • After every project, showing data that was fixed and the downstream systems that receive that data (and thus, the benefit)
  • Creating videos (KISS broadcasts, entertaining, short, so people know you exist, what you do)
  • Finding motivators that are meaningful to your company (e.g. “Do no harm” for healthcare, or “Protect our customers” for insurance, being more effective than a generic “Adding value”)

Donald Jenkins, Andrew Rosenbush, and Elizabeth Lewis Kucko (EnerNoc) told a great success story with Poor Data Quality is just a Symptom – Leading an Organizational Transformation Case Study, and how they solved service delivery issues following an acquisition, involving 1000+ employees speaking many languages across 5 continents.  Some secrets of their success included their prioritization of business culture (killing bad habits), building organizational alignment, building effective end-to-end processes, and lastly developing tools to support these processes.  When they built a new customer MDM, they strove to replace all the existing alternatives (including local spreadsheets), by ensuring the tool was easy to use, had all the data the employees needed, etc. They used data to discover and address issues. Where KPIs weren’t being met, they delved into the root causes (including talking directly with the employees, using the 5 why’s).  Over 18 months, the data quality issues have been resolved, service levels have risen, and both customers and employees are much happier.

As I said earlier, these comments were intended to give a flavor of the conference, they are by no means a compete description of the sessions I attended. And regrettably, I can’t do justice to the other concurrent sessions I couldn’t attend.  I do hope that this has whetted your appetite, and that you’ll join me at a future conference for the full-meal deal!

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Corine Jansonius

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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