Archives For January 2016

Data-driven Government: The use of data (aka Facts, Information, Insights, etc.) to support all Decisions, Policies, Performance Metrics, etc. required in the daily & long-term operation of Government (at all levels).

Oxymoron: A rhetorical figure of speech in which markedly contradictory terms appear in conjunction so as to emphasize the statement ; gen. a contradiction in terms.

The notion of Data-driven Government presumes to solve the age-old challenge of balancing “head vs. heart”(1)  when it comes to decision making and associated activities in Government bodies. Data-driven Government creates a culture where decision making & behavioral outcomes rely on Data (aka Facts) to drive each and every aspect of day-to-day operations as well as the long-term strategic goals. The concept is not new at all and dates back many decades now, but has had limited success in Government until recently. The Data-driven approach has been brought to the forefront again as Government’s everywhere jump on the Data, Analytics & Digital bandwagons and proceed to Transform themselves into more agile and efficient bodies which can better serve the needs of its citizens, at substantially lower costs. It is clearly an ideology that has caught on in the numerous Digital Transformation Programs that we see around the world (UK-GDS, US-18F, Australia-DTO, EU-SDM, etc.) and has an almost religious zeal to it in respect to how Politicians and Mandarins characterize it in their advocacy activities (much less those who are actively involved in its delivery). However, beyond the rhetoric is the fundamental question; Is Data-driven Government an Oxymoron or a Reality? I will endeavor to answer this in the rest of my article.

Government (as a service and not quite yet a platform) has become increasingly complex to deliver effectively given the growing demands of daily operations and the increased sophistication & demands of Citizens in terms of their expectations from their Government. At the heart of this is a growing awareness, much less recognition, that Government is more and more like a business which now must compete for Customers in a highly crowded field of competitors. While this may strike some as odd, it is clear to most strategists that Government must keep up with advances in Decision Science used by the Commercial Sector in order to survive (at the polls at least).

To become a truly data-driven Government (and not cynically wear it as a fashion statement) the culture of decision making & performance management must change dramatically. This transformation begins at the very top of Government with the elected Officials who are accountable (with their Civil Service partners) for formulating and executing strategy and defining the associated tactics required to achieve the desired outcomes. These Officials must change their spots from being political hacks who use their power to force outcomes, to those who achieve outcomes by leveraging facts & measures. This approach must then cascade down to all levels of Government (Elected representatives & Civil Service) while remaining aligned along this path. The secret sauce in this approach will be balancing the political agenda of elected officials with the needs of citizens. Data-driven Government provides levels of transparency not currently found today even in the most progressive Open Data programs. The data used to drive these decisions must pass scrutiny by oversight bodies, opposing parties and citizens themselves. This leaves little wiggle room for political agendas to be fulfilled using smoke filled backrooms as a proxy for decision science.

Data-driven Government is a rationale that the Open Data community uses in their advocacy activities to justify further adoption and investments. They speak of “dog fooding” by Governments’ in respect to using their own Open Data to drive outcomes as well as enhancing Transparency. I believe that Open Data remains a PR tool for use by governments to control information outflows and to act as a proxy for transparency that comes from Freedom of Information laws. These efforts typify the fact that political power is hard to give up willingly by elected officials, but given the awareness of citizens to these tactics it will not be long before they are non viable.

In the end, will Governments’ have the political willpower to become truly data-driven or will they continue to embrace the politics of cynicism, power and cronyism? It remains to be seen, but strong seeds of change have already been planted and if supported by strong nurturing (via the electorate), plenty of sunshine (transparency) and nutrients (budget) it can and will become a reality.

(1) – The Head (cognitive) is all the rich data & insights that Governments accumulate and the Heart (emotional) being Politics/Human Behavior at its basest.

Note: This posting appears in an edited form in the January 2016 issue of Information Age magazine (




In January 2015 I wrote in my Information Age column about what I referred to as: “2015 – The Year of Data Leadership” (posted on my blog as well: I wrote on this topic periodically over the course of 2015 and included updates in my presentations at the PASS – “Business Analytics Conference (June – Santa Clara)” & Information Age’s “Data Leadership 2015 (November – London)”. Now that the year is finally complete and as we enter 2016 with a full head of steam, I would like to share with all of you a Report Card that I developed which “grades” the progress (or not) that was made in respect to executing on the basic elements of my Data Leadership Nexus.

There are three foundational categories which I would grade each Organization on in their pursuit of becoming a Predictive Enterprise.

  1. Leadership Literacy & Acumen in “All things Digital, Data & Analytics” (aka Top-Down Leadership)
  2. Strategic Leverage of the Organization’s Core Competencies in Digital, Data & Analytics.
  3. Empowering a Culture of Analytics & Data-driven Decisioning. (aka Cultural Adoption)

These three fundamental categories of the Data Leadership Nexus working in concert with each other can produce the maximum transformation & subsequent strategic outcomes in the shortest period of time. All require close monitoring and nurturing by the CEO & Board along the entire journey to insure the appropriate effects are fully instantiated.

The Nexus of Top-Down Leadership, Cultural Adoption and the enabling Core Competencies of Digital, Data & Analytics creates a unique strategic framework for becoming a Predictive Enterprise. Adopting the framework provides a path to strategic transformation, but requires each “leg of the stool” to carry its full weight.

Grading the success of any organization’s transformation into a Predictive Enterprise will always be subjective so I am using a scale of 1-5 (1 =Failing Outright, 3=Trying real hard, 5=Tangible Success) to provide some granularity, but not specificity as to actual performance (think of it as a trend).

The 2015 Data Leadership Report Card

  • Top-down Data Leadership by CEO & Board: (Grade=2)
  • Leverage of Core Competencies in Digital, Data & Analytics (Grade=3)
  • Cultural Adoption & Empowerment (Grade=1)

My Grading Rationale is as follows;

  1. CEO’s & Boards are beginning to move in the right direction in terms of their Accountability for “all things digital, data & analytics”, but more importantly that they are core to their strategy and must be integrated in up-front, not bolted on later. All Eight CEO’s featured in my series, “Profiles in Data Leadership” understand this intrinsically and did not have to be “converted” after the fact. There is much progress that needs to be made in respect to moving from a Technical view (delivered by IT) to a strategic view (driven from the top-down)
  2. Most (if not all) Organizations have invested heavily (and will continue to do so it appears) in digital, data & analytics solutions & capabilities, but have not made the transition to using them as Core Competencies. This is due to the continued fixation on specialization and not generalization of these skills. I see these barriers breaking down over time, but they are a disabler to achieving the pervasive (and not selective) use of digital, data & analytics to achieve competitive advantage and strategic outcomes.
  3. Moving the Organization’s Culture from gut-based & hierarchical decision making to data-driven & fully analytics empowered is a long-term journey for everyone, but is nonetheless the linchpin of strategic success. The use of Proxy Leaders and Unicorns (aka Data Scientists) is counter-productive to this effort as it leaves the vast majority of the Organization on the sidelines. Organizational Culture is the shadow of the CEO (and Board) and reflects their actions and demeanor. If you have a CEO & Board who are dedicated to Top-down Data Leadership you will soon have an Organizational Culture that is in lock step with the plan to transform into a Predictive Enterprise.

In 2016 and beyond I see major improvements in all three foundational categories, especially as the experimentation with the fashion statements of Proxy Leaders and Unicorns fails miserably and common sense/strategic approaches become the norm.

I will continue to write on this matter and to provide a 2016 Report Card over the coming year.

Stay tuned!







Each year now as I advocate for Top-down Data Leadership by the CEO and his/her Board (as opposed to Proxy Leadership as a “Data Fashion Statement”), I use the 12 Days of Christmas lyrics as a theme to mimic in getting my message out over the holidays (in small bites). 2015 was no exception and you will find below a recap of my Tweets, along with a bit of embellishment beyond the 140 character limits.

Hope you enjoy it.

On the 1st Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO confirmed to the Board his/her Full Accountability for “All things #Digital, Data & #Analytics“. This is the central tenant of the Data Leadership Nexus where leadership manifests from the existing hierarchy which has now assumed full accountability for “All things Digital, Data & Analytics”.

On 2nd Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO & Board outlined the Strategic Outcomes which #Digital, #Data & #Analytics would deliver for the Organization. These core competencies must be leveraged to create tangible outcomes for every Oganization.

On the 3rd Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO & Board set their Data-driven Core Strategy into motion across all facets of their Organization. Data-driven begins with your Core Strategy and all its desired Outcomes. Data (facts) are used to help define the Strategy, to measure its progress along the way and ultimately to characterize the Outcomes in a meaningful way.

On the 4th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO, Board declared: “We will Transform our Organization into a Predictive Enterprise within 5 yrs.” Transformation is a journey for every Organization. You must set targets along the way and eliminate barriers to success too. This is the role of the CEO & Board and it requires Continuity of Leadership as well as Conviction to achieve the Outcome in a finite time frame.

On the 5th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO committed the Organization to achieving broad-based #Data & #Analytics Literacy within two years. Data & Analytics must be used pervasively and not selectively. This begins with Literacy & Competencies at all Levels, especially at the top where the most value from facts, measures and insights typically manifests.

On the 6th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO enacted the Org’s plan to be #Data-driven in All Decisions, Measures & Outcomes going forward. Being data-driven is a major commitment and requires moving from an anecdotal (gut) -based decisioning model to a fact (evidence) -based on. It must occur at all levels where decisioning is required in daily & strategic operations.

On 7th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO vowed to use #Data & #Analytics pervasively (not selectively) in creating their Predictive Enterprise. Pervasiveness is essential to becoming a true Predictive Enterprise. Data & Analytics can no longer be “specialist functions”, and must be used by everyone in all facets of daily work. This is the linchpin of any transformation strategy used to become a Predictive Enterprise.

On the 8th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO & Board integrated #Data, #Analytics & #Digital into their #Governance & #Risk accountabilities. Data & Analytics are core to each Organizations strategy, tactics and operations. Their use must be governed accordingly in alignment the Organizations’ overall governance model. This applies to Risk Management as well. Data & Analytics are not outliers and must be integrated into the Org’s Risk Models & related activities.

On the 9th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO, Board & All Senior Execs began their journey to become #Analytics-Literate Leaders within 2-yrs. The central tenant of the Data Leadership Nexus is Top-down Leadership. However, you cannot Lead what you don’t understand. This requires all senior execs, board members and the CEO to become “Analytics Literate” early in the journey to becoming a Predictive Enterprise.

On the 10th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO detailed the key elements of Orgs’ Transformational Journey to become a Predictive Enterprise. Every successful Transformation requires a road map that details the key milestones and measures necessitated to achieve the outcomes of the Strategy. These will be unique for every Organization as it maps out its journey and the Outcomes it is pursuing. 

On the 11th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO & Board assigned #DataStewardship Responsibilities for key #Data Domains across the Organization. There are many critical Data & Analytics domains in every Organization and they must be shepherded through their lifecycle by Stewards who are fully (or partially) responsible for this task. These Stewards are typically at the mid-tier of any organization and act as Asset Managers in the typical sense.

On the 12th Day of #DataLeadership the #CEO empowered the Org to use its rich #Data & #Analytics Talent to become a Predictive Enterprise. Empowerment is essential to the success of any Transformational Strategy. It is the Trust element and each CEO & every Board must instill in the culture of the organization. Empowerment engages every single responsible party in the pursuit of the common goal of becoming a Predictive Enterprise.

Look for more postings on The Data Leadership Nexus and Predictive Enterprises over the course of the year.

All the best in 2016!