Archives For Information Governance

Preface*: The Data Leadership Nexus (Copyright 2013) connects Data, Information, Analytics, Executive Leadership and Organizational Culture to create strategic impact, differentiation and enterprise value within every organization striving to become a true Predictive Enterprise.

Body: As we all prepare to attend this May’s (Information Age) “Data Summit” (http://bit.ly/1sznhbV) and to celebrate those chosen as the (Information Age) “Data 50” for 2017” (http://bit.ly/2o6OjaP), I wanted to reflect on how far we have progressed (or not) on the notion of Data Leadership since I began to write about it in these pages (Information Age) in 2013.

The origins of the Data Leadership conversation go back several decades to my time in the supercomputer sector and the “Grand Challenge” problems that we had been tasked in solving. In those days, CPU speed (and cooling requirements) and Network bandwidth dominated the discussion, while Data drove the outcomes. During that time in history Leaders had deep backgrounds in Science, Engineering & Math and all understood first-hand the scope of these challenges, as well as the limited means to surmount them.

Fast forward to today and we find that much has changed since then in terms of the characteristics & competencies of Leaders, as well as Computing & Networking hardware. Today, Data is recognized as centric (in all respects) to solving all Challenges, Grand or not, but not very well understood by those who ultimately have leadership accountability for it.

During this span of time the Data Management Team (an IT function) remains for the most part in charge of all data within each and every Organization. Whether it is under the auspices of a CIO, or an anointed proxy leader such as a CDO, data is still managed by IT at the direction of technical leaders. This is not a measure of any progress whatsoever in respect to either treating data as a key Organizational asset or establishing accountability for its creation, use (via Analytics) and stewardship by the CEO and Board. How can this be one should ask?

I have boiled it down to one common theme; Does your CEO (and Board) have the Right Stuff to do the job (of Data Leadership)? The simple answer is (emphatically), “No, not yet!”

For those who are fans of the book/movie, “The Right Stuff”(1) you might have been persuaded to believe that it was a story about Astronauts and their early struggles & successes, but in reality, it is one about Leadership. NASA as a program was successful not by having better technology, but by leveraging competent & capable Leadership from the top-down. Each Leader in their hierarchy had” The Right Stuff” in respect to fostering the mission & vision of the Program from a position of strength in respect to their core knowledge, skills and acumen. These same strengths are the foundations of Data Leadership as well.

To fully realize the power of digital, data & analytics in any Organization, no matter the sector, the entire leadership team must be competent and capable in exploiting these capabilities in every activity they undertake. They cannot delegate these requirements to so-called Data Scientists, Proxy Leaders e.g. CDO’s, or those in the IT Department who provide service delivery to them. They alone must accept responsibility for the successful execution of your data-driven strategy and be accountable to their superiors (including the Board) if they fail to do so. A true Data Leader must be more than a cheerleader who demands that others provide fruitful outcomes from digital, data & analytics. He/She must lead by example and be “hands on” in terms of approach and delivering the goods. This is the essence of having The Right Stuff, not the Leadership Fluffery that I continue to see across all Sectors. Creating Competitive Advantage from your Digital, Data & Analytics investments and capabilities is a Leadership Accountability that every Data Leader must step up to in order to succeed.

In today’s world, bona fide Leaders are hard to find under the best of circumstances. True Data Leaders are an exceptional find for any Organization and most are an amalgam of many talents. They cannot educated for this role, but rather molded into it based on a variety of life experiences and inherent capabilities. True Data Leaders are well rounded, comfortable with their responsibilities and always have a bit of swagger associated with those who have The Right Stuff.

Please join us on May 18th for the Information Age “Data Summit” and learn more about “Data Leadership and The Right Stuff”.

(1) “The Right Stuff” (’79) – Tom Wolfe’s epic tale of the NASA’s early days and the Mercury 7 Astronaut Program”

*-This posting appears in edited for as an article in the April 2017 edition of Information Age (www.information-age.com) and can be accessed on the IA Hub (www.informationagehub.uk)

PostScript:

On November 29, 2016 the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill passed into law by Royal Assent. Many in recent days have tried via an online petition to re-open debate on this bill as a desperate last attempt to stop its progress. I ask those who signed this petition, much less all the celebs in the Tech industry as to where their voices were over the past two+ years as this bill made its way through Parliament and the House of Lords? Once again, a passiveness has been exhibited by the Press, the Electorate and all sorts of Activists as new draconian measures are put into place in the UK Surveillance State. I suggest that this will be the case again as the so-called “Digital Economy Bill” reaches its finalization in the coming weeks. It will soon be time to “reap the whirlwind” that these infringements of Human Rights will bring.

Prelude:

The notion of Personal Privacy aka “The Right to be left alone” dates back centuries in Law and its practice is enshrined in the foundations of all Democracies and Human Rights proclamations. These protections were created well before the invention of digital computing, databases, etc. and yet have been essentially undone in short order since their arrival.

Body:

In the very near future, the UK will most likely have passed into law one of the most far reaching efforts ever by any Democracy to spy (and snoop) on each of its citizens, residents & visitors at home, much less abroad; all in the name of Security. Mundanely referred to as the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) it is widely derided as “The Snooper’s Charter” (and rightfully so). It is a law with literally no purpose other than to legitimize the illegal spying that the UK Government has been engaged in for decades via its Security, Services, while increasing the scope of their activities beyond reason. Promised as necessary (and proportional) to providing Security to the country, it in essence guts everyone’s right to Privacy as far as the State is concerned. Of course, this flies in the face of established Privacy Laws that the Public, Private & Non-Profit sectors are currently held to account for, much less the EU Human Rights Charter, which Brexit will soon undermine, if not eliminate altogether.

Why is the Electorate in the UK being cowed into accepting the false equivalency that; “If you trade away your Privacy to us (the State) we will provide you with Security (and protection)”. It does seem that the average citizen cares little about their personal Privacy today as long as they are safe in their beds away from the clutches of the latest bogy man that the State can conger up. Add to this, the parallel effect observed by users of social media or online shopping where they accept the bargain of; “As long as you offer me some sort of instant gratification, I don’t care about my Privacy one iota (no matter how creepy you act with my data)”. How did the Human Right to Privacy become so easily traded away by almost the entire population? The root cause of this effect can be found in data that is all around us and you don’t’ need to be a so-called Data Scientist to figure it out.

We now live in a world that is awash in data. We create it as individuals during ever moment of our lives and consume even more of it from various sources and services that we seek out. There is so much data about us that is collected, processed, sold and exploited that we have become oblivious to the entire process. It is as if there were an invisible anesthetic in the air that numbs our senses to the fact that something a very wrong with all of this. Privacy is a right, that until recently has been fiercely protected and a line that few Governments’ have been willing to cross in respect to monitoring their citizen’s (at least publicly). Now, it is only an afterthought that arises when some egregious act or data breach is exposed by the press or on social media and everyone sounds off about how violated they feel (all the while creating more new data to be exploited by others). We now have a Perfect Storm of events where Privacy as a right (or in the US as a Civil Liberty) is lost in the conversation, while everyone focuses myopically on National Security or the pursuit of the latest game (Pokemon Go comes to mind) or app (Facebook is a constant in being the worst offender). The Individuals’ right to Privacy has become an insignificant consideration, much less an afterthought.

As the UK plans its exit from the EU, the notion of Privacy will be further eroded as the State will focus all its attention on Sources of Commerce & Trade, Border Security & Immigration. These negotiations will be another opportunity for Privacy Rights to be further traded away in return for hollow promises of gold or enhanced security. In the end it should be clear to all members of the Electorate that not only did the UK sleepwalk its way out of the EU, but it sacrificed the notion of personal privacy along the journey. There will be no way to put this Jeanie back in the bottle once this happens regardless of which party is leading Government.

This article in an edited version first appeared in the September 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com).

Preface:

Governments cannot embrace, much less promote Big Data, Open Data, Analytics, Machine Learning & Ubiquitous Algorithms without protecting the Citizens’ whom they work for. Social Engineering must be by choice, not by default through illiterate political leaders.

Body:

The UK Government as part of its “Digital Economy” initiative has just released with great fanfare the “Data Science Ethical Framework”. Its ministerial champion has characterized it as “harnessing the Progressive power of Data Science while protecting the Public”. It does neither, but clearly illuminates the lengths to which the UK Government (along with others) will go in trying to influence/dictate behavior in areas where they have no literacy at all in respect to understanding the underlying capabilities (Data, Analytics & Algorithms), nor the consequences of the harm (or actual good) that can come if left to their own devices. Not to be left to a footnote however, is the fact that these attempts at behavioral influence do not apply to the Intelligence community or Police services, both of whom want unlimited powers to surveil, gather data on everyone’s daily lives (and perhaps thoughts) and to then use these to ultimately predict behaviors i.e. The Snoopers Charter.

Ever since the notion of Big Data has come onto the scene, many have extolled its virtues in changing the world as we know and understand it. They have hyped with a zeal not previously seen the notions of Data Science, Data Scientists, Algorithms & Machine Learning, etc. Virtually all of them have advocated for its wide-scale use to analyze and predict citizens’ behavior in order to gain deeper insights, without any controls as to “just how creepy” this activity could get in terms of interacting with the public at large. Any attempt to limit the “how and where” Big Data & Analytics should be applied was met by the fury of these same advocates who characterized it as “stifling economic growth and wealth creation”. Not surprisingly, most advocates have been highly influential in getting Governments to go along with their thinking and to take a “hands off” approach. This has not worked out well for consumers who now see their daily lives dissected, analyzed and ultimately manipulated by the algorithms & machine learning associated with the deep behavioral insights now available to almost every organization who invests in Data & Analytics capabilities.

The backlash that now arisen from this lack of control is significant enough that many Governments have created Ethics Councils and other bodies who have gone on to generate reports & recommendations on the issue of  “Ethics in the age of the Algorithm”. Additionally, these same governments (US, UK, EU, etc.) are also major advocates of Digital and have undertaken major Digital Strategy & Transformation efforts within their countries[1]. These efforts have served to further exacerbate the Ethics Problem that we are now experiencing. A common thread found amongst all of this is the seemingly cluelessness that Government Leaders, Ministers & Civil Servants exhibit each and every time they make an address or pronouncement on the topic of Privacy, Ethics, Governance, etc. associated with Big Data, Analytics, Algorithms, Digital, etc.  Clearly, they don’t understand the underpinnings of the issues, nor the reasons why this topic has become so paramount in the public’s mind and their stated demands that it be resolved to their satisfaction.

Data (Big or Small), Analytics (Creepy or Helpful) & Algorithms (Evil or Good) are major influences in how the Digital World around us evolves, much less serves us. Beyond the well-rehearsed platitudes, there needs to be a fundamental mastery of the details associated with these domains by Leaders & Policy Makers who are ultimately accountable for making Citizen’s lives better, much less protecting them from threats. Without strong & competent Leadership, and controls (governance) , these same citizens will be victimized rather than benefited by Data, Analytics, Algorithms & Digital. The requirement for competent leadership is not a political platform for campaigning on, but a focal point for Government action in order to uphold basic human rights, no matter what pace of transformational change the country is experiencing.

An Ethics Framework that relies on self-governance, best efforts and serendipity to insure that consumer Privacy is protected and that Citizens are not victimized by their own data is a recipe for disaster. Government Leaders must commit themselves to leading at all levels and across all domains. They must be literate and competent in the areas that they promote as catalysts for change and not leave Citizens to the vagaries of Data Science, and all that portends to be.

[1] The UK Government has gone so far as to make the “Digital Economy” a centerpiece of the Queens’ Speech in spite of not being able to come up with a companion “Digital Strategy” that was promised quite some time ago.

  • An edited version of this posting appeared in the June 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)

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 (www.information-age.com).

 

 

 

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!

RLLeadership-picture

 

As I begin my third year as Information Age’s “Resident Thought Leader” (www.information-age.com) I thought that I would recap my 2013 series for them entitled “The Chief Data Officer – Necessary or Not?”.

Part 1: Introduction

The role called “Chief Data Officer” was created during the past five years primarily to address the growing requirements and sensitivities of Regulatory Compliance in Financial Services & Insurance post the crash of 2008.

In each of these sectors, the need for more rigorous Governance & Provenance schemes forced many CIO’s and Chief Risk Officers to define the need for a “Data Czar”; as someone who had ultimately Accountability for insuring that all Regulatory Data was up to standards, available in a timely fashion and representative of a “Single Version of the Truth” in terms of filing veracity. This reactive approach has created a role that typically lives in IT and has neither the leverage, nor the influence to be effective over the long term.

It is my contention that if information-driven enterprises were serious about “treating their Information as an Asset” that they would have taken a business-driven approach and created this role at the C-Suite or Board of Directors level.

At the recent MIT Chief Data Officers conference in Cambridge (MA) there were many presentations and forums featuring current CDO’s. The majority of these folks came from Financial Services and Government with a smattering from other sectors. With little exception, they came to the role with the proviso that they “get the organizations’ Data in order” to meet critical reporting or analytical needs. This narrowly defined focus troubled me as it appeared that organizations were abandoning both their Data Management and Information Governance Teams in favor of a ‘Czar” who reported directly to the CIO or Risk/Compliance executive and could somehow drive different outcomes than the ones they were struggling to achieve already. One would have to ask “Is this a knee jerk response to a crisis of confidence in their data and its veracity or a real executive role with the influence to drive a “Culture of Data & Analysis?”. I seriously doubt the latter.

As a practitioner of Organizational Design I am always asked “Why?” in respect to the creation of any new executive role beyond the status quo. Organizations remain very hierarchical in structure and adding an additional component (or layer) to the well-established hierarchy is strongly resisted. Typically, this resistance is in the form of questions such as; “Why are you diluting my portfolio of responsibilities”, or “Why add another layer of bureaucracy with no real power?”. In respect to the CDO role I am at a loss as to how to answer either. Additionally, it appears that the only community who is strongly advocating for this new role is the Technical one, not Business leaders. All of the noise and posturing regarding the role is coming from technical thought leaders and consulting practitioners and not from the C-Suite or the Board. This is very problematic in terms of gaining momentum or consensus as to the value and scope of this role.

In order to distance oneself from the current hype and rhetoric surrounding the role of the Chief Data Officer you must conduct an objective analysis of the requirement for leadership and advocacy to support the concept of “Information as an Asset”. This core belief and all that goes with it is the foundational element of ‘Why do we need a Chief Data Officer”. In my subsequent writings on this subject I would like to build such an Analysis for the readers to evaluate and to use in their own efforts to support an internal discussion on “How can we manage our Information Assets over their lifecycle to create maximum enterprise value with acceptable risks?”

Part 2: Managing Information as an Asset

In the short time since my last posting there have been a spate of Chief Data Officer advocacy articles appearing across the landscape. All of these seem to want to glorify the role of a “data czar” while ignoring the current roles of Data Governance and Data Management leaders, much less acknowledging the uphill struggle to get Business Leaders to assume their accountabilities & responsibilities for the data that they use every day to support reporting, analysis & decision making. As if a single person acting as “a data czar” could somehow overcome these challenges (or provide a proxy for the lack of business leadership)?

In this installment, I would like to address these issues head-on in hopes that it may curtail some of the knee-jerk support of the CDO as a savior for all things information-related.

The essence of the challenge is this; “How do we get business leaders to accept the fact that “Information is an Asset”, and as with other assets in their enterprises, it must be managed accordingly over its useful lifecycle. Asset management is a well-understood discipline in the vast majority of enterprises today so this should not intrinsically be an obstacle. However, when you evaluate the behavior of these same organizations in respect to how they treat their information resources there is clearly a fundamental lack of appreciation and respect at virtually every level. If information was being managed as an asset we would not see such poor quality data, the use of multiple versions or the truth for decision making or major privacy breaches on such a frequent basis. It is clear to me that Business Leaders are not taking the notion of “Information as an Asset” seriously at all. To let this responsibility be relegated to IT is a disservice to the entire organization. IT has neither the resources, nor political clout to do any more than “facilitate” information management policies handed down from above.

Information Management (IM) consists of two basic categories in most enterprises today; Managing “stuff” (data) and Mitigating risks (regulatory compliance). Legions of IT workers focus on the “stuff”, while a more elite group manages the risks. The latter is typically what we call “Data Governance” (the former being Data Management) and is a relatively recent component with a spotty track record to date. In most enterprises Data Governance is still in an early stage of maturity and struggles to maintain relevance. However, we now see a trend where the Chief Data Officer is being positioned as a manager of these functions as well as the “Liaison with the Business”. This liaison role is meant to foster influence and collaboration with all information-driven areas of the business, while enhancing the delivery of information products and services to them. I have seen this model used in so-called Competency Centers with some success.

The creation of a new role called Chief Data Officer does little, if anything to change organizational behavior in respect to accepting the belief that “Information is an Asset”. Furthermore it obscures the fact that Business Leaders are not assuming their natural accountabilities and responsibilities for managing one of their most critical and leveragable assets; their information. Given the current state of the industry it appears that they would rather have IT identify a “new neck to choke” when things go awry with information resources, if there is a bad regulatory report created or even worse when a privacy breach occurs. This cannot remain the status quo. We cannot continue to create new information-related roles to abstract direct accountabilities for information stewardship from its natural owners; the business.

In my next installment I will focus on “How to create a business-lead culture of Information & Analysis within any enterprise.

Part 3: Creating an Organizational culture that treats Information as an Asset

In our Information-driven world one would expect that Executives on both the Business & Operational side of the house to naturally assume ownership (and stewardship) of this critical asset base. It seems only logical when you look at how the Treasury, Distribution, Real Estate, Fixed Assets and other related functions (which manage the lifecycle of Tangible & Intangible Assets) are located in the Organizational Hierarchy.

However, when it comes to Information (and its underlying Data), this logic appears to be out of alignment in most enterprises across the globe (A few notable exceptions might be information-centric enterprises such as Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc.).

How did we get to this logical disconnect one might ask? In my experience it has been the steady decline in the strategic role of IT, along with the acquiescence of their natural leadership responsibilities by Business Executives whom are still immature in their approaches to exploiting information resources & capabilities. These two trends have created a toxic mix of lack of focus/sensitivity combined with living in a world where “data & information are just stuff” and as such are managed to service & cost levels (by IT).

To break this cycle of behavior you must adapt your culture to treat Information as an Asset. This is accomplished by applying Cultural Adoption Methods from the discipline of Organizational Change Management (OCM). It is in essentially a “Top-Down, Bottoms-Up and Middle-Out” approach where all “influencers and owners” are engaged simultaneously. A new belief is established in everyone that this intangible asset that we call Information must be treated as a precious and extremely valuable one. A recognition must exist that the Organization succeeds or fails in large part on the Quality, Richness & Full Exploitation of its information in regards to all aspects of the business model i.e. Customer, Suppliers/Partners, Research & Development, Competitive Differentiation, Services & Products, Brand Success, Legal Mitigation, etc. Only when the entire Organization realizes and embraces the notion that “Information is our most valuable Asset” and that “Each of us has Personal Stewardship Responsibilities” can you realize the full measure of value that is manifest in your information resources.

I have successfully applied these Cultural Adoption techniques in a number of Organizations going back many years now. While simple in concept it can be very challenging to define an approach for each type of Organization that will be successful. Some early activities to help me size up this challenge include; C-Suite evaluations to define “Champions and Enablers”, The measurement of the psyche of the Organization in respect to “Ability to Adapt” and “Levers for Success” and locating hidden pockets of “Information Exploitation” to identify Change Leaders & Success Mechanisms. These evaluations allow me to size up the scope of the challenge, to define the strategy for success and to layout the integrated plan for success. The only Organizational Design component of this entire activity is the establishment/optimization of the appropriate levels of Governance required for guiding the management & full exploitation of all Information Assets over their useful lifecycle. This governance body is essential to separating Oversight (doing the right things) from Operations (doing things right) a key overall requirement. Nowhere is there a requirement for a “data czar” or “uber executive” accountable & responsible for all Data. This single point of failure approach has no place in any Organization that truly believes (and behaves accordingly) the notion that “Information is an Asset”.

The concept of the Chief Data Officer has been fostered by many within the Technology side of the house and completely ignores the central issue that the Business must assume its natural leadership accountability in managing and optimizing all Information Assets over their natural lifecycle. These responsibilities for Stewardship are lead by the business in partnership with Technology and must be embraced by everyone at a personal level in order to succeed. Only then can any Enterprise claim that they “Treat Information as an Asset”.

A 2014 Follow-on Article: “Why you still don’t need a Chief Data Officer”

For those who have followed my writings on the subject of the Chief Data Officer beginning last summer (2013), you know well that I am no advocate of this role. Having endured one wave of hype after another on this subject and being that I just attended the CDO Summit here in London, I felt that it was time for an update.

What I initially believed was a bit of overzealousness in response to new regulatory statutes (BCBS 239 Pillar II) have now become downright cynical. Every Vendor, IT analyst and CDO Wannabe is out beating the Chief Data Officer drum each day in the belief that if you say something loudly and frequently enough then it becomes the truth. To be clear, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for a Chief Data Officer, much less the 20+ other “Chief Whatever Officers” currently being advocated.

In terms of facts, this is what a number of recent surveys (Gartner, etc.) tell us;

1.- Most CDO’s have been created out of the wreckage of failed Data Governance programs.

2.- The vast majority of CDOs remain in financial services and are a direct result of a knee jerk response to complying with the BCBS239 “data management” requirement.

3.- Virtually all CDO’s are non-executive, reporting 1-3 Tiers below the C-Suite, usually to the CIO. Few sit on the business side at an appropriate point of leverage and oversight.

4.- The typical job description for a Chief Data Officer reads as follows:

“Wanted: Knight in shining armor sitting upon a white horse. Needs to solve all data-related challenges that the CIO, Risk, Audit, Compliance, Legal, etc. have not been able to do for the past 50+ years. Must be a visionary, highly influential and yet operationally focused. The Chief Data Officer is fully accountable for the veracity and provenance of all Regulatory filings, but will have no operational authority. “

I could go on here, but suffice it to say what is being touted by all as critical to the success of Big Data & Analytics is doomed to fail for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, the CDO’s remit as described in most cases is in total conflict with established guidelines for effective Governance (OECD “Principles of Corporate Governance”, The Turnbull Report “Internal Control: Guidance for Directors on the Combined Code”, The BIS “Enhancing Corporate Governance in Banking Organizations” and ISACA’s “Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT)). You simply cannot have one leader responsible for both Governance and Operations. It is a total conflict of interest, which cannot be resolved no matter who sits in the CDO seat.

Second and equally critical, is the requirement for Business Leaders to take accountability for all of their Information & Analytics endeavors and to stop looking for someone else to do it on their behalf. For any organization to become an “Analytics-driven Enterprise” it must be have capable and competent leaders in all levels of the business. These leaders must set the tone and direction for Big Data & Analytics and drive the cultural belief that “Information is one of our most critical assets and we are accountable for its stewardship and exploitation”. IT cannot do this no matter what they call the messenger and if we don’t change this dynamic we will fail as an industry to achieve the potential that Analytics, Big Data and our Legacy data have to offer.

In summary, while many of my peers will criticize with my continued resistance to join the chorus of voices advocating for the role of CDO I cannot endorse a failed strategy when the right one continues to stare us in the face. Success with Big Data & Analytics can only come from top down leadership by the Business side of the organization.

Footnotes:

Organizing for Success. For those experienced in Organizational Dynamics and Corporate Governance the notion of a ‘Chief Whatever Officer” is a hard one to support. While being noble in its cause, these “czar-like” roles are counterproductive to the outcomes desired and fly in the face of governance practices and ultimately create chaos and rancor. If they are absolutely necessitated to help bring focus and critical mass to an emerging focus area then they should be designed to “self-expire” in 18-24 months at the outside. Short-term needs cannot outweigh the long-term stability of the organization and its culture.

Why do Data Governance Programs continue to fail so spectacularly? Recent surveys show that many DG Programs have either failed to meet their stated goals and objectives or have receded into the status quo of the past. The principal reasons are directly attributable to; 1.- Being located in and lead by the IT organization.   2.- Being unique and outside of existing Corporate Governance & Risk Management endeavors and 3.- Lack of or waning sponsorship by Business Leadership. The solution to this challenge is not to re-group and create a “data czar”, but to drive the belief that “Information is an Asset” from the business side where all Assets have traditionally been managed and nurtured.

Finally, a January 2015 column focused on “Making 2015 a Year of Data Leadership”.

As the focus of industry hype moves from Big Data to the Internet of Things we have a unique opportunity to turn our attention to one of the underlying disablers of broad success in using data & analytics to their full potential in any Organization; the lack of Top Down Data Leadership. During the past couple of years we have seen a fever pitch in Organizations’ anointing proxies to the status of superheroes in respect to Data & Analytics Officers. While there have been many such appointments, most are now being scrutinized as the widening gulf between the rhetoric and reality becomes more apparent. This effort to create “Chief Whatever Officers” has been foolhardy in my opinion, as it has completely dodges the need for the Board and CEO to become directly accountable for the Organizations management and exploitation of data and their leverage of analytics across the enterprise to create a “culture of evidence-based decision making”. My aim in 2015 is to change this dynamic.

In 2015, I would like to create much more than awareness of this underlying challenge, but to make actionable its solution in what I am calling “The Year of Data Leadership”. In the Year of Data Leadership I would like every CEO and their Board (Public, Private, NGO, Not-for-Profit, etc.) to accept the fact that they (and Not IT) are fully accountable for “all things data and analytics”. I want them to embrace this accountability and make it core to their Strategies and Operational Plans. I am challenging them to step up to this leadership mantle and provide the Organization with a plan of action to put it on a trajectory to becoming a “Predictive Enterprise” within 5 years (2020). This Decision Making transformation would move them from being gut-based decision (relying on experience and anecdotes) making Organization to one where evidence (facts, decision science and the appropriate amount of intuition) guide all decisions at every level.

This is an ambitious undertaking for even the most agile of Organizations, but a necessary one if the competitive advantages of a Predictive Enterprise are ever going to be realized. To accomplish such a Transformation I strongly recommend approaching it as follows;

1.- Immerse the CEO, Board & Senior Executive Team in a series of Boot camps designed to immediately (and measurably) raise their acumen and competencies in the domains of Decision Science & Analytics, for “you cannot lead what you don’t understand”.

2.- Make Data, Information & Analytics Core Competencies in your strategic and operational endeavors. Make then pervasive and break down silos and centers of excellence to make capabilities mainstream and ubiquitous to all aspects of your operational domain. This will require investment in staff development and in the early stages may require shadowing of staff with outside experts, mentors and coaches.

3.- Manifest Cultural Adoption by all members of the Organization of this new strategic paradigm i.e. Becoming a Predictive Enterprise. Organizational Culture is “the shadow of the CEO, Board and Senior Executive Team”. It is found in every corridor and behind every door across the enterprise and is molded from the Top-down. To begin to change a culture requires Top Down Leadership to changes it behavior and modify all cultural norms and activities. The entire Leadership team must engage with the Organization directly (with support by Change professionals) to lead by example in regards to championing the new direction and its virtues.

This three-pronged approach will produce the maximum results in the shortest period of time and requires close coordination, substantial investment of time and resources to succeed. It is truly transformational and should not be a sub-priority to other Enterprise-wide strategic and operational initiatives.

The Nexus of Top-Down Leadership, Cultural Adoption and the enabling Core Competencies of Data, Information & Analytics creates a unique strategic framework for becoming a Predictive Enterprise. All components are required to work in concert to achieve a true transformational outcome within any Organization who wants to fully exploit data & analytics for competitive advantage.

Going Forward:

In my future writings & presentations I will continue to advocate for what I see as the best approach to achieving the goal of becoming a Predictive Enterprise, one where Data Leadership manifests from the Top-down. I am confident that others will join in this call as the False Gods of Data and Fashion Statements fall by the wayside and a more realistic approach is embraced by all.

I encourage everyone to subscribe & read my monthly column in Information Age as well as to continue to follow this this blog for future updates.

RL

 

 

 

Each day we seem to be bombarded with more and more hype about the need for Proxy Leaders aka Chief Whatever Officers and other Fashion Statements such as Data Scientists. There are specialist recruiters, IT Analysts and Conference organizers who promote these roles along with a chorus of IT people who seem to not have much respect for their boss, the CIO. Frankly, I am sick of hearing/reading all of it and in spite of my best efforts to tune out these voices out they seem to be everywhere. It appears to me that the entire vendor, analyst & pundit community have sold the farm on the success of these IT Superheroes in spite of a legacy of more than 50 years of failure by IT to lead in respect to Data, Information & Analytics. I am not one of these “true believers in the next data prophet”. For my money when it comes to creating effective Data Leadership  I am going to bet on the traditional organizational hierarchy which begins with the CEO (in partnership with his/her Board). To that end that is why I have devised The Data Leadership Nexus in the fashion that I didFor those who have been following my Data Leadership Nexus articles, blogs and tweets you know that I have been promoting the notion that “2015 – The Year of (Top-Down) Data Leadership”.

In support of this, I have been working with Clients and other Like-Minded Thinkers to develop 5-year plans for CEO’s & Boards to transform their Organizations into Predictive Enterprises within this timeframe (if not sooner). To help better understand what that journey looks like from the perspective of those who have already undertaken it (albeit on a slightly different path at times) I am authoring a new series which profiles these Data Leaders.  It is loosely modeled after JFK’s book entitled “Profiles in Courage” something that I was inspired by in my youth.

I have several of these profiles in development now. The first two out of the gate will be;

  • Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley the CEO behind CitiStat (Baltimore) and StateStat (Maryland)
  • Brian Cornell, the new CEO of Target Corporation
  • Jim Smith, CEO of Thomson Reuters
  • Alistair Currie, CEO/COO of ANZ Bank

I believe that you will find all of these profiles very compelling and all will run counter to the many waves of hype that you are subject to on a daily basis in respect to data & analytics advocacy and management. Look for these postings in the coming days. In the meantime you can Recap (or read in full detail) all aspects of The Data Leadership Nexus starting here: (https://infomgmtexec.me/2014/09/16/recap-the-data-leadership-nexus/)

Stay Tuned!

Richard

“Courage profiles” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia