Archives For Leadership

Preface:

privacy |ˈprīvəsē| noun “the state or condition of being free from public attention, being observed or disturbed by other people”:

Authors Note:

Members of the Judiciary in the US are now stating without equivocation that “Privacy is only for those with something to hide”. I would doubt that anyone outside their circle of influence agrees with them.

Body:

Privacy is a basic Human Right in the EU and many other geographies and a long established Civil Liberty in the US.  These protections have been in place for many decades and yet never in its history has the notion of Privacy been under a non-stop attack from two opposing and powerful forces simultaneously; that of numerous Internet-based Commercial entities (including illegal ones via Data Breaches) and various Governments’ around the world (for national security and often immoral purposes). All believe with strong conviction that they have legitimate needs (and alleged legal rights) to freely access and use Individuals most personal data (PII) for the purposes of either Commerce or National Security. No matter where you stand on these arguments there is much to be said & argued and it has become “a pundits dream” in terms of opportunities to proffer and pontificate on the subject. All seem to be making to argument to extend their already egregious activities even further. This has created deep polarization by all parties involved with no resolution in sight.

Given all this, the central question in my mind is “Can all of these interests co-exist in some level of balance that is beneficial to all, but benign in respect to sacrificing any Privacy rights and protections that exist today, much less in the future?” I see it as one of the central challenges of our time and worthy of at least one of my columns in 2015.

The success or failure of our ability to reach a consensus on Privacy will be the great enabler (or disabler) of everyone’s dream for what the Internet, Device Applications, the Internet of Things, etc. can provide today and in the future. Without this understanding all may be lost in my opinion. In this regard I may be alone in my thinking, but only time will tell.

How do we achieve this co-existence? No matter the approach taken, building and maintaining Trust amongst all stakeholders is paramount. Today, there is precious little of this due to recent behavior by both Commerce and Governments. Most polls taken today verify this directly and expose the dilemma that Consumers find themselves in (http://www.pewresearch.org/topics/privacy-and-safety/) when trying to embrace new capabilities that technology can provide and to support their Government’s efforts to keep them safe, while maintaining control over something very critical & essential to their wellbeing i.e. Personal Privacy.

For some time now I have espoused the idea of creating a “Universal Privacy Doctrine”. I see it as an understanding about Privacy that would transcend all Governments, Geographies, Languages and Cultures, a sort of passport if you like which would guarantee everyone a set of basic protections for their Personal Privacy. Many have scoffed at this idea, but given the patchwork of laws, policies, etc. that exist on the matter, much less the global reach of the Internet and Government Surveillance it seems to be the only practical way to define a baseline of minimal protections, which can then be built upon. It ultimately solves the dilemma that if Governments’ are responsible for protecting their Citizens Privacy from others, yet can’t be trusted to do so themselves then where do you go for protection? In terms of practicalities it would take a body such as the United Nations to underwrite such a doctrine, to create the mandate and ultimately to marshal the resources required to enforce it. I would see it as “Privacy Peacekeeping” in its most basic form.

We live in a time where Commerce and Government want free and unfettered access to our most Private data and yet offer nothing in return to the Citizen/Consumer. This pendulum has swung far too much away from the status quo of many decades in respect to established Privacy Protections.  We must find a way to re-balance the scales in favor of the Consumer while supporting these other vested interests in Privacy-protected data.

*-This posting originally appeared as an article in Information Age (UK) in February 2015

For More Information:

You can read my Privacy Corner Series on IBM’s Big Data Hub: http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/blog/author/richard-lee

In particular please check out my article & podcast:

“A matter of Trust” http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/blog/privacy-corner-april-2014-role-trust-it-applies-privacy

Preface:

Digital (adj) the predominate use of Internet, Mobile & Internet of Things technology platforms to radically improve Customer Engagement, Collaboration & Operational Efficiencies.

Transformation (noun): a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance; a process by which one function is converted into another that is equivalent in some important respect but is differently expressed or represented.

Body:

Digital Transformation has become the de jour subject to espouse your beliefs on in 2015. As such, I felt obliged to add my voice to this chorus. Hopefully readers will agree once they have read this.

Digital is one of the key Disruption Initiatives being applied by business strategists & enterprise architects to wake-up moribund industries such as Financial Services (Banking & Insurance), Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), etc. It promises superior levels of engagement with Consumers (Customers) for a fraction of the cost of conventional (Analog) methods (Print Media, Television Advertising, etc.), amongst other strategic benefits. Considering that many of these particular industry sectors spend 5-7% of their gross revenue on marketing and branding activities it is not hard to see why the disruptive approach of Digital is so compelling & attractive to them.

On a technical level Digital speaks to the leverage of many disparate initiatives in Mobility, Internet, Applications, Security, etc. to create a suite of capabilities all focused on Customer & Collaboration. It allows IT functions to create an integrate delivery stream which they can manage end-to-end.

In spite of deep spending on Digital Transformation endeavors, payback still seems illusive for most. Like most Transformational endeavors, Digital is not immune from the intrinsically high rates of program failure & disappointing strategic outcomes. In most cases this is directly attributable to abysmal (dis-engaged) Leadership by the CEO and Board (who cheerlead, rather than take hands-on accountability) and overall poor execution by Consultants who sell Transformation Methodologies & Services to these same leaders. Given the stakes one should ask, “Why is this?” These are my thoughts on the “Why”.

CEO’s and Boards use Transformation as a strategic tool to move a well-established organization out of its current doldrums and into a leadership position once again. It is a black art for the most part as most of these same people rarely understand how to execute Transformational Change and typically bet the farm (so to speak) on Consultants and hucksters i.e. Thought Leaders, who sell transformation as the “cure to all that ails” with the proviso of “Trust us, we will handle all the details”. The failure rate and associated costs of these failures has become so high (and contentious) that all of the top tier consultancies now require their customers to sign gag orders which forbid them from going public about these debacles, much less requiring private arbitration to resolve all contractual/financial disputes. Given this, most Transformation Programs seem doomed from the start.  Digital Transformation is no different in this regard and yet I firmly believe that it is imperative for all Organizations (Private, Public and Not for Profit) to embrace this paradigm shift. The primary rationale for this is the fact that it forces these same Organizations to abandon their backward-looking, gut-based decision making & customer engagement endeavors in favor of evidence-based & “always on” approaches, key components of a Predictive Enterprise. In my advisory endeavors I have always counseled senior executives & boards to “never waste a crisis” in respect to fostering real (transformational) change in your business model and culture and see the pursuit of Digital as such an opportunity. Without a compelling impetus Organizations’ can barely muster marginal or incremental change successfully.

Digital Transformation can provide a unique opportunity to realize the benefits of becoming a Predictive Enterprise while changing the dynamic between the Organization and its Customers (constituents), Partners & Suppliers. It portends to be the single most dramatic overall change that any established Organization can pursue as it breaks its many ties with the status quo and truly transforms.  The key to success is Leadership from the Top-Down (CEO & Board), an Engaged Culture and embracing Digital Outcomes (data, analytics, etc.) as Core Competencies and not IT functions. Digital Transformation is synonymous with what I have evangelized in The Data Leadership Nexus in this regard.

*-An edited version of this posting first appeared as an article in the March 2015 issue of Information Age (UK)

Authors Note:

I have written this posting for the CEO and his/her Board of Directors/Advisors and not for IT/Technical management as they are only responsible for executing the Policies & Plans that their Executive Team has set forth.

Preface:

According to the UK’s ICO >90% of all reported data breaches are caused by Human Error and not by Cyber Criminals or Hackers. In spite of this, the singular focus is now on Cyber Security as the means to prevent data breaches.

Data Leadership must come from the top (CEO and Board) and cascade down to the entire Organization in order to be pervasive & effective.

Body:

The worst nightmare that every CEO & his/her Board face today is not an unchecked competitive threat or insufficient market capitalization, but that of the Data Breach. Virtually every Fortune 5000 Company, Government entity and NGO has had at least one major data breach during this decade, with many having multiple “badges of shame” to their credit. Each breach, whether malicious or accidental, brings all sorts of recriminations & bad press to the Organization and its Leadership. Mea culpas and low-level IT managers falling on their swords has become commonplace and is now meaningless for the most part as the root cause of the issue continues to not be addressed; that of  “The Lack of Executive Data Leadership (pre & post-breach)”.

Data, especially those classes which contain “personally identifiable information” (PII) is one of the most valuable assets that every Organization collects, stewards, exploits and protects. Without it there would be no Organization in virtually all cases and yet treating “data as an asset” is typically (if not always) entirely off the radar of the Chief Executive, the Board and the Senior Executive Team (SET). Their only concern seems to be mitigating the “risk” associated with this asset class in respect to Compliance with applicable laws, statutes and regulations. The protection of data is always left to the CIO and/or CISO who reside multiple levels down in the Organizational Hierarchy. This must end now or Consumer Trust will be lost forever in fairly short order.

Data Leadership must come from the top (CEO and Board) and cascade down to the entire Organization in order to be pervasive & effective. It defines the Strategy for managing & exploiting data over its entire lifecycle (creation, harvesting & retirement). A critical component of this management lifecycle is protecting data from unauthorized access or inadvertent disclosure. If Executives could envision data being just as tangible as cash, bonds or even trade secrets then perhaps they would be more imaginative in its protection. Every Organization, in spite of its best efforts has a very porous network of interconnections spanning their entire Enterprise. Each of these connection points is potentially a source for a breach, especially now with the influence of the BYOD movement. Once breached, these networks cannot typically detect any nefarious or negligent activity for the most part, much less PII and other Critical Data flowing outwards. It is a Perfect Storm of risk factors and yet if Top Down Data Leadership were in place appropriate resources, sensitivities, monitoring, rewards & punishments, etc. would be in place to detect, mitigate and ultimately prevent these data breach risks altogether as everyone would know that it is the #1 Priority for the entire Organization. It would be “baked into the Culture of the Organization” much less part of the behavioral ethos within it. This use of Leadership & an Engaged Culture to steward and protect critical data is much more practical than any type of Ring Fence that many are currently advocating. “Awareness and Vigilance” becomes the mission for everyone to embrace and embark on each day across the entire Organization. In most cases today data breaches go undetected for up to a year before discovered. By then the damage has been done. This would not be the case in any Organization who is so committed to the core in respect to its data.

Coping with the threat (and aftermath) of Data Breaches requires Top-Down Executive Leadership and an Engaged Culture focused on nurturing & protecting data as an asset. Investing in more Security Tools, Cyber Insurance and endless Consulting engagements will not surmount the challenge of the data breach. Embracing all of the tenants of Data Leadership is the only solution to this long-term challenge. Remember, 2015 is “The Year of Data Leadership” and thwarting data breaches is a good place to start your journey.

*An edited version of this posting appeared as an article in the April 2015 issue of Information Age (UK)

Preface: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines a Citizen Scientist a member of the general public who undertakes scientific work in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and/or scientific institutions. The OED currently has no definition for either Data Science (it is also not recognized as a legitimate science by any scientific body in the world) or Data Scientist aka Unicorn.

Body*:

The notion of Data Science was born from the recent idea that “if you have enough data, you don’t need much (if any) science” to divine the truth and foretell the future” (as opposed to the long established rigors of Statistical or Actuarial Science which most times requires painstaking efforts and substantial time to produce their version of  “the truth”). Practitioners’ of this so-called science are the self-proclaimed Data Scientists, purported to be the “sexiest job” one can have today. The Data Scientist is a catchall role, which defies a common definition[1], but claims that;  “We can do anything you want with any data that you have” (akin to “Torturing the Data to obtain some version of the Truth”). Much of the hype of Data Science has been coupled with the virtues of Big Data (and all that entails). Now that we are starting to see Big Data wane and without much of a solid foundation built to date, it has become clear to me (and many others no doubt) that Data Science is on the cusp of being relegated to the “Junk Science[2]” rubbish bin in fairly short order. I for one will not mourn the death of Data Science, or the abatement of hype surrounding it (much less Big Data).

Rather than embracing this untested (and perhaps doomed) form of science and aimlessly searching for Unicorns aka Data Scientists, to pay vast sums to, many Organizations are now embracing the idea of “making everyone Data & Analytics Literate”.  This leads me to what my column is really meant to focus on; The Rise of the Citizen Scientist.

The Citizen Scientist is not a new idea whatsoever having seen action in the Space & Earth Sciences world for decades now (NASA SETI) and has really come into its own as we enter “The Age of Open Data”. Given the exponential growth of Open Data initiatives across the world (the UK remains the leader, but has growing competition from all geographies) the need for Citizen Scientists is now paramount.  As Governments open up of vast repositories of new data of every type, the opportunity for these same Governments (and Commercial interests) to leverage the passion, skills & collective know-how of Citizen Scientists to help garner deeper insights into the Scientific & Civic challenges of the day is substantial. They then can take this knowledge and the collective energy of the Citizen Scientist community to develop common solution sets and applications to meet the needs of all their Constituencies without expending much in terms of financial resources or suffering substantial development time lags. This can be a windfall of benefits for every level (National to Local) or type of Government (or Industry sector) found around the world.

The use of Citizen Scientists to tackle so-called “Grand Challenge” problems has been a driving force behind many Governments’ commitments to and investments in Open Data to date. There are so many challenges in governing today that it would be foolish to not employ these very capable resources to help tackle them. The benefits manifested from this approach are substantial and well proven. Many are well articulated in the Open Data Success Stories to date. Additionally, one only need to attend a local “hack fest” to see how engaged Citizen Scientists are of all age, gender & race and to feel the sense of community that these events foster as everyone focuses on the challenge(s) at hand and works diligently to surmount them using very creative approaches. To get a flavor as to some of the larger challenges being addressed by Citizen Scientists & Governments you can visit the (US) Citizen Science Alliance site (http://www.citizensciencealliance.org/index.html) or the (UK) (http://www.ukeof.org.uk/our-work/citizen-science).

As Open Data becomes pervasive in use and mature in respect to the breadth & richness of the data sets being curated, the benefits returned to both Government and its Constituents will be manifold. The catalyst to realizing these benefits (and attendant ROI) will be the role of the Citizen Scientist. Citizen Scientists are not going to be Statisticians, Actuaries or so-called Data Scientists, but ordinary people with a passion for science and learning and a desire to contribute to solving the many Grand Challenges facing society at large. I believe that their efforts will do more to turn the tide on societal and environmental challenges than all other undertakings combined.

[1] Neither Data Science nor Data Scientist merits an entry in the current OED.

[2] Junk Science is commonly regarded as; “untested or unproven theories presented as scientific fact”. In Actuarial terminology it constitutes “Unsound Results”.

*This posting in an edited version originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Information Age (UK)

In advance of my presentation at the Data Leadership 2015 Conference in London (November 26th) entitled: “Profiles in Data Leadership”, I thought that I would set the tone by asking a fundamental question; Do you have what it (really) takes to be a Data & Analytics Leader? I hope you enjoy it.

It seems that everyone today aspires to be a Leader in whatever activity or organization that they are involved in, no matter their background, capabilities or experience.  Many endeavor to pursue the Mantle of Leadership by engaging in “soft activities” such as writing articles & blogs, social media participation, conference presentations, etc., to demonstrate their abilities & potential, but few are successful it seems. Conventional wisdom says that being promoted to Manager is a pathway to Leadership as well. I disagree with all of these approaches.

Over the course of my career I have come to this belief; Leadership is Earned, not Learned! You can educate anyone on the principles of Leadership, but that does not make them a Leader. Leadership only comes from experience, character, fortitude under fire and other key behavioral/cognitive attributes. Given all this, it brings me to the title of my column this month: “Do you have what it takes to be a Data Leader?”

Recently, Information Age announced its selections for the “Data 50”, a group of data leaders & influencers in the UK. The “50” were chosen from a group of nominated candidates submitted this past Summer (2015). The Data 50 represent an interesting cross-section of data folks in the UK from all sectors and I am familiar with a number of them.  Independent of the Data 50, I have been writing over the course of this “Year of Data Leadership (2015)” about the 8 CEOs whom I have chosen for my series; “Profiles in Data Leadership”. Not surprisingly, there is no overlap between these two groups as they do represent completely different ends of the what I refer to as the Data Leadership spectrum. Let me explain why.

At one end we have the notion of what I call “The Data Leadership Nexus”, a strategic framework for becoming a Predictive Enterprise. Central to this concept is the role of Top-down Leadership by the CEO & Board in guiding the successful exploitation of Data & Analytics by everyone across their Organization in order to make it pervasive and ultimately to create sustainable sources of Competitive Advantage. The Nexus presumes that you have a highly functioning Leadership structure in place already, which is fully accountable for strategic, tactical & operational performance in the classic sense, but has also undergone a transformation over time to be highly competent in areas of data & analytics. This Data Leadership Nexus is Transformational in approach and encompasses Executive Leadership, Core Strategy, Organizational Culture & Technology to achieve its desired outcomes.

At the other end of the Data Leadership spectrum, we have the traditional technology-focused Data Management activity within the IT Organization. Leadership here drives functional responsibilities and is focused on how to best deliver data & analytics as a service to Users and Executives. This is a very critical role in every organization and today and is often referred to as that of the Chief Data Officer. In many of these same Organizations this role may also be responsible for Data Governance activities as well as liaison with Business Units to establish SLA’s, Functional Requirements, etc. The emphasis for this role is to provide technology services & expertise in support of the Organization’s Objectives (strategic, tactical & operational).

In order for any Organization to be successful in its quest to become a Predictive Enterprise, the entire Data Leadership spectrum (both ends, much less the middle) must have inherently strong leaders in all roles that intersect with data, analytics & information governance. Whether top-down, bottom-up or middle-out in respect to the location of these roles or their span of responsibilities, every Data Leader must work from a position of strength & experience in respect to knowledge, acumen & abilities. This is a much deeper set of requirements that almost all other managerial or executive positions.

If you want to become a Data Leader (or a better one if you already are) my advice is as follows; You must be a true leader at your core, one who understands not just the technology, but the why & how of making it a core competency for your Organization in its pursuit of strategic excellence. You must be fully accountable for those who work within your span of responsibilities and lead from the heart. Finally, you must steel yourself each and every day to more worthy and capable of the challenge you have been tasked with. In the end, Leadership is not for everyone, especially those who want the spotlight on themselves constantly.

*This posting in an edited version appears as an article in the November 2015 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

In light of the growing number of major Digital Transformation initiatives underway across the globe as well as the media & consultancy focus on the topic of “All things Digital” I wanted to re-publish a recent article on Transformation Leadership that ran in Information Age in the UK. I see if as still very topical given the state of flux that all of this remains in. Enjoy!

Peter Drucker, the so-called Godfather of Management Consulting famously opined: “Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things.” 

Managers come and go; Bureaucrats seem to stick around forever, but when a true Leader decides to leave the Organization there can be change and upheaval to contend with. This is especially true in long-term Transformation Programmes where over the course of the journey many individual contributors may “roll-on and roll-off” along the way, but there is always an emphasis on continuity of Leadership at the highest levels so as to insure successful outcomes, while maintaining acceptable risk levels at all times.

By definition: “Transformation Leaders define the mission & vision of the programme and then take a hands-on approach to its successful realization”. Most Leaders are subordinate to a more Senior Authority (CEO, Board, Civil Service Exec., Cabinet Minister, etc.) who are  typically more political and subject to greater volatility in their oversight role.  Friction at this level or a Change in the direction of the programme can force even the strongest Leaders to re-evaluate their role and its longevity. This is when Leadership Changes can be precipitated either voluntarily or via a very public sacking and typifies the high wire act that all Transformational Leaders undertake each day. The recent events at the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) programme are classic in terms of this scenario and may play out similarly in the US and Australia’s nascent Digital Transformation endeavors as well. I tell many of my clients that “Transformation Leadership is like war. You must consider yourself already dead in order to fight on to the finish without consideration of your own survival”. A harsh analogy, but a true on from my observations.

However, anarchy & disruption do not need to be the norm. Changes in Leadership can be very cathartic events allowing for a detailed and transparent examination of the mission, vision and progress to date, such that Lessons Learned and Strategic Re-alignment activities can be undertaken in near real-time while the new Leader(s) is brought in and acclimatized to both the Culture and the Plan for the programme. This may disrupt some of the momentum that had been built up prior to the leadership change, but that is a small price to pay compared to the potential catastrophe that can result from everyone taking the attitude that “It is Business as Usual (BAU) until I am told otherwise”. It will not be BAU until the plan; its Leader(s) and all Contributors are re-synced and moving forward on a common plan once again. Additionally, there must be time allotted to mourn the Leader(s) who have left, to celebrate all accomplishments to date and to build a bond of trust amongst those who will continue the journey to a successful conclusion.

Much is said in the startup and consulting communities about the notion of Effective Leadership. Many these days believe that it can be “learned” as part of an MBA curriculum or in venture capital sponsored workshops. I find both of these efforts laughable given the scarceness of true Leaders around us. The mantle of Leadership is earned, not learned in my experience.

Needless to say, vetting and selecting a new Transformation Leader is a critical task once there has been a change in the current leadership. This person cannot be a clone of the previous leader, nor should they be expected to simply “carry on” in respect to the current plan. They must be allowed to examine all programme-related factors and to create an updated plan that reflects their leadership approach and the new BAU going forward. This process will allow for updates in mission, vision, scope and budgetary realities so that a successful outcome(s) can be achieved and everyone who contributes has had a say in the matter. No matter the strength or background of the new Leader there must be a process of reflection and collaboration so that an initial level of trust can be built and then nurtured by a healthy group dynamic going forward. If not, the Organization will be looking for a new Transformation Leader, or Oversight Executive in short order.

Transformation Programmes are high-risk, high-reward undertakings where the future of the Organization is at stake in terms of success. Leadership is the essential ingredient to insure that all elements of the Programme are working in concert, much less harmoniously, to achieve the Strategic Outcomes that the Organization has bet its future on. In virtually all Programmes there will be a Leadership Change along the course of the journey. Being prepared for it is a major Risk factor to militate against.

*- An edited version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

 

 

As we all begin to make our final plans to attend Data Leadership 2015 late in November (http://bit.ly/1YOKrJV), it struck me after reviewing the agenda once again that we have now reached a point where there are now many discrete & different forms of data being used across most enterprises (Public, Private & NFP) on a regular basis. Much of this data now comes from outside the Organization in the form of Open Data, Reference Data, Social Media Data, etc.  All of these data sources are managed to varying SLA’s and Best Practices in respect to quality, veracity, latency, etc., making them extremely suspect at times in my opinion. However, most Enterprises do not question their sources of this external data and simply embrace it for the “Richness” that it provides without consideration of the care & feeding that it has undergone over its lifetime. Why is there such implicit trust here one might ask especially in light of most Organizations’ challenges with their own data in respect to quality, etc.?

The notion of Data Leadership is one where Data, Information & Analytics are treated as core competencies by every organization. As such, they are strategic in their nature and are major leverage points for the Organization to use in creating Competitive Advantage. These core competencies rely on the fact that the data that underpins them is of the highest quality regardless of metric used to evaluate them with. This requirement transcends all industry segments and applies to Government and NGA’s alike. Bad or misleading data in respect to accuracy impacts everyone in a debilitating way. Given this, every Senior Executive has a Data Leadership accountability to make sure that the highest quality standards are maintained, even if the data is sourced from a 3rd party or from the Open Data Community. Herein lies the rub. How do you manage what you don’t control?

As data is monetized and sold by the pound by Reference Data providers,  much less as it is freed up from the government silos that it has been hoarded in for decades by the Open Data Community, it must be made “fit for purpose” and undergo rigorous conditioning to insure that it is “in shape” for consumption regardless of the use case. This is not the case today with the vast majority of what I call 3rd Party Data, most specifically what is sourced from the Open Data portals that now proliferate the landscape. Reference Data & Social Media data are better managed over their lifecycles because there was always a profit motive behind its creation, but it still has its challenges. I will leave that discussion to a future article. For now, let’s focus on the Open Data world.

Open Data now comes from both Government entities (and NGO’s) as well as Commercial interests. Both use these data sets internally to run their Organization and then “hive off” some (or all) of it for sharing with the Open Data Community. In most if not all cases, it is done as a side activity (begrudgingly) by the IT Staff who are always hard pressed to have enough staff, time & other resources to do their “day jobs”. This creates a dynamic that does not foster high quality data in any regard. To overcome this, we must have Data Leadership by those Executives who are accountable for delivering data products to the Open Data Community. They must insure that all data under their watch is representative of what would be acceptable internally by the Org, much less to a higher standard if possible.

We still live in a “Garbage In, Garbage Out” world. You cannot have successful (or believable) Analytics Outcomes without good data as foundation. Forget about creating Competitive Advantage if everyone continues to waste all their cycles on fixing bad data or questioning the source of their truths.

As there will be representatives from both the providers and the users of these 3rd Party data sources at DL 2015, I wanted to impart one basic message to all who are planning on attending; “Every type of data needs Data Leadership”.

As a community of data & analytics professionals we must insist that all data must be guided by some basic Governance principles that affect the useful lifecycle of the data assets that are being created and consumed. I look forward to discussing all of this further with everyone at Data Leadership 2015.

*This article appears in an edited form in the October 2015 issue of Information Age (http://bit.ly/1RCgB6p).

It’s been a while since my last update on the Eight CEO Leaders featured in my series; “Profiles in Data Leadership”. I am actively working on a presentation for this Fall’s “Data Leadership 2015” conference in London where I will discuss each one of these data leaders in the context of “2015 – The Year of Data Leadership” (that’s a lot of references to Data Leadership isn’t it?).

I thought that I would provide a taste of what will be discussed in November through these 3 short overviews. Hope you enjoy it.

Cheers,

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.12.32 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.12.15 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.11.52 AM

An old American idiom says: “You have too many Chiefs and not enough Indians”.

(*This article originally appeared in the July/August Edition of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com))

“This issue of Information Age begins my 3rd year as Resident Thought Leader, “Hype Debunker” and advocate for Top-Down Data Leadership. Over the past two years I have covered a variety of topics in my monthly column, many of which I believe still remain front of mind for you the reader. The one topic that continues to occupy my thinking is that of the madness known as “The Chief Whatever Officer (CWO) Syndrome”. It began with the drumbeat for having a “Chief Data Officer” and has grown substantially in all directions. We are now approaching 100 of these CWO roles, which are being advocated by every pundit, analyst, consultant, recruiter and media hack out there, along with an army of “wannabes” who feel eminently qualified to fill one of these roles. To me, it is an absurd notion that we need to define & hire/designate someone as a “Chief” each time a challenge or opportunity arises that requires Leadership attention & accountability. Isn’t this what we pay the big bucks to the CEO and his/her Team to do? Why do we need a Proxy Leader who is at best only partially responsible for a particular function associated with their role, when we have a CEO & Board who are fully accountable for all strategic outcomes? More importantly one might ask: “How did we get here?” I will attempt to answer all of these in the remainder of my column.

As way of background; over the course of management history we have had an organizational structure that mimics how humans behave i.e. hierarchically. During this time there has always been Senior Leaders at the very top of the Organization with a hierarchy of subordinates cascading down through the logical number of levels required, until you reach the front-line worker. This construct was based on the so-called Knowledge Tree as well as being driven by the practicalities of Span of Control. It has been a workable construct in spite of the dynamics faced by most Organizations in their daily operations and over a long history. Over time these Senior Leaders were denoted as “Chief Officers” in respect to their area of accountability e.g. Executive (CEO), Operations (COO), Finance (CFO), etc. Each Senior Leader had a well-defined remit of functions & activities that they were responsible for and all reported into the CEO (who in theory then reports to the Board) in terms of accountability. This structure has been the status quo in all Organizational sectors for many decades and I suspect it will be for many more to come in spite of the zeal for so-called Disruption.

What has become an affront to this harmonious organizational structure is the zeal & ferocity with which non-management thinkers have begun promoting the hiring of Chief Whatever Officers at every turn. We now live in a world where they believe that Organization’s needs handfuls of these non-executive Proxy Leaders to “own” core competencies such as; data, digital, analytics, customer, compliance, security, etc., etc., all without any final accountability. They also advocate that one Chief Whatever Officer should report to another in some bizarre construct. Enough is Enough! We need to end this tyranny and get back to the basics of Top-down Leadership.

If we truly want the evolving competencies of data, analytics, digital, etc. to be fully transformational and to use them to create sustainable competitive advantage for our Organizations then we need to “bake them into” our core strategies, their execution and the realization of all outcomes. This approach can only be successful when driven by the CEO and Board, from the very top into all levels of the fabric of the Organization. There can be no proxy substitutes for true Leadership in any Organization. It is the height of anarchy.

In all Organization’s, Strategy, Culture & Core Competencies are formulated and nurtured by the Senior Leadership Team in a coherent fashion and embraced by everyone in their daily endeavors. Creating arbitrary points of focus & soft power structures causes confusion, rancor and competition within the formalized structure of the Organization and its natural hierarchies. Success is difficult enough to achieve without creating a minefield of Organizational disconnects along the journey.

In the end, CEO’s and Boards should not be swayed to adopt Fashion Statements, False Gods or Superheroes. The Chief Whatever Officer Syndrome is an amalgam of all three with no long-term sustainable benefits.

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