I am presently waiting in the Boston Airport for my flight home to Seattle after attending the “8th MIT Chief Data Officer & IQ Symposium” this week and wanted to reflect on the above while the thoughts were still swirling around in my head.
The Symposium was extended by 1/2 day to support discussion on “Bridging the Data Science Talent Gap”. There were presentations from Industry, Consultants/Recruiting & Academia with almost a singular focus on the so-called “Data Scientist” (a fictional character resembling a Unicorn in my opinion) and how to create them, find them and leverage them for success. As expected given the demographics of the audience and the presenters the point of view was very much through the lens of technology with a smattering of business speak to provide some balance.
What was so obviously absent from the entire dialog was the role of Business Executives as Leaders of the Data & Analytics Initiatives across their enterprises. Instead, they were relegated to the role of providing the vision (a very limited one), funding, head count requisitions, capital investment funds, consulting contracts, etc. in support of the Chief Data and Analytics Officers, the CIO/CTO and Other Interested Parties and their plans of action. A clear belief was indicated by many that Business Executives were just not up to the task of Leadership. Why is that one should ask?
From my vantage point as an Executive Consultant I have seen this dynamic play out many times and the root case is that the Senior Executive Team is “Missing in Action”. There is a total disconnect between the Strategic Leadership that they provide and the requirements to successfully execute the Disruptive Strategy that Data & Analytics portends. This must change and immediately.
Today’s Senior Executive is not shy when it comes to expansion of their operational portfolios or the pursuit of risky endeavors such as Credit Default Swaps (CDS), Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), etc. especially when it feathers their nest or vanquishes the competition. However, when it comes to Data & Analytics they are Missing in Action (MIA). This situation has created a management conundrum. Senior Executives cannot be Masters of their Universe when they do not understand the fundamentals of Astrophysics. In other words, their strength (and success) manifests from deep domain knowledge and acumen and applying these to creating sources of competitive advantage for their organization, not cheerleading a disruptive change in their business model which they neither understand nor can work from a position of strength to drive to success. In spite of being strong believers (and advocates) for Data & Analytics the vast majority of Senior Executives are not Analytics Literate. They have never worked in an evidence (or fact) based decision making environment, much less one where everyone across the Enterprise leverages Information & Insights in every task they are responsible for. I could go on for quite a bit more here, but will leave that for later.
I believe that we need to immediately change the dialog in the Data & Analytics Community from “Big Data, Data Scientists, Chief Whatever Officers, Data Lakes, etc.” and focus on Executive Leadership Development (not IT) and determine how to put the entire Senior Leadership Team on a trajectory where they can ultimately assume the Full Accountability for all Strategic Outcomes from applicable Data & Analytics Strategies and Plans. If we do not change this Organizational Dynamic in short order all bets are off.
I will be developing an overview of how to accomplish this in my upcoming series (and presentations) on what I am calling “The Data Leadership Nexus”. Look for an overview of this in early August.
Richard…well said. One takeaway for me was that the technologists have difficulty talking about organizational dynamics outside technology (as evidenced by the SAS vs. R debate.) To me, the challenge to work smarter with the talent you have is even greater than I thought. Also, re the moniker Data Scientist, I prefer Linda Burtch’s “Big Data Professionals” in referring to the broader category. Thanks for attending and helping make sense of the discussion.
Thanks Peter for your very insightful comments. I completely agree. We seem to all be fixated on new titles with no regard as to what they mean, much less how they impact the Organization and its Operational Dynamics. I will be writing more on this over the course of the next 30-90 days. Please stay tuned.
Late to the discussion, but I have seen the same thing in my organization. Thank you for your thoughts on this, I look forward to following more of this discussion.
Thanks. Stay Tuned!