Archives For Cultural Change

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” ( and to celebrate those chosen as the (Information Age) “Data 50” for 2017” (, 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 ( and can be accessed on the IA Hub (

In my last post, I laid out the notion of The Data Leadership Nexus and its five basic components;

  • Top-Down Leadership (by the Senior Executive Team)
  • Data, Information & Analytics
  • Organizational Culture 

I will discuss the most important component of The Data Leadership Nexus in this posting entitled, “Leadership Requirements in the Predictive Enterprise”. 

Much has been written about the criticality of strong Leadership. It is an essential requirement to becoming a Predictive Enterprise. One of the foremost thinkers on Leadership, Warren Bennis passed away just last month (July 2014). He chronicled the attributes and characteristics of “The Modern Leader” in his many books on the subject, but his basic conclusion (in my words) on the role of Leadership was; “We can neither transform, nor reach successful strategic outcomes without strong and effective Leadership from the Top Down”. It is on this point alone that I continue to bristle against the growing advocacy for “Chief Whatever Officers”.

No matter the domain (data, data protection, data security, analytics, digital, etc.), I do not agree with the constant drumbeat to appoint a “czar” to fix (or enhance) a function which is the direct accountability of the Senior Executive Team (whom I will refer to as the SET going forward). What is required here is to address the data, information & analytics shortcomings of the Current Generation of Senior Executives in respect to the Key Attributes of; Education, Acumen, Competency & Operational Experience such that they (and only them) can take assume their critical (and natural) role in the The Data Leadership Nexus. We cannot continue to run away from the real problem as to why we are not realizing the benefits from 50+ years of investing inordinately in data, information & (most recently) analytics. Clearly, the CIO (in all forms and incarnations) has not been able to accomplish this and no type of proxy will be able to be successful either. It is simply a waste of precious time and resources to go down this path (CDO, CAO, etc.) and then discover it didn’t work (once again).

Let’s get started. As some of you may have gathered from my recent article in IBM’s Data Magazine ( ) the vast majority of today’s Senior Executives do not have all (or even some) of these major attributes in their favor when it comes to Data Leadership. Suffice it to say that these were not essential as they climbed the organizational ladder and honed their Executive skills over the past several decades. However, because of these shortcomings they now find themselves acting as cheerleaders for strategies and capabilities that they do not really understand in detail, nor can lead from a position of strength. This has lead to the use of a crutch by appointing “a czar” (proxy) or being too timid altogether in pursuing sound strategies and outcomes (i.e. limited capital & manpower investments, short-term benefits realization horizons, being “gun shy” of risks, etc.). This short-sightedness has not compensated for their lack of Education, Acumen, Competency & Operational Experience in data, information & analytics and  is subjecting them to the fundamental executive shortcoming of: “You can’t lead (to success) what you don’t understand”.  How we overcome this challenge is the critical path to success in achieving the Leadership component of The Data Leadership Nexus.

The most immediate path to overcoming these Leadership challenges is to bootstrap all of the required attributes for each member of the Senior Executive Team via Mentoring, Coaching, Advisory activities and Academies/Boot Camps. Time is precious with each of these SET members so a personalized plan must be developed and executed in a fashion that demonstrates real-time progress and an acceleration of results to get to a level of capabilities and understandings consistent of the needs for true Data Leadership. These plans will then have a long-range view in order to maximize and sustain results. There are many Boutique Tier 1 & Tier 2 consultancies who have the practice capabilities to fill these requirements for their clients. Most realize, along with myself that it is essential to transfer the required domain knowledge and skills to SET members to achieve strategic success for the Client Organization. At the end of the day, The Client must lead with Advisors/Consultants providing a supporting role in the background. While these boundaries blur at times, it is the most proven path to success in both the short and long haul.

Most importantly we must better prepare the Next Generation of Executives for their own Data Leadership roles by baking all of these same attributes into every aspect of their personal and professional development activities such that they too can assume the mantle of leadership when it is their time and be fully prepared (and tested in advance) for it.

It’s a challenge to provide the necessary detail of the path forward in a short posting, but I hope that I have conveyed not only the necessity of Top Down Data Leadership, but the urgency of addressing the current shortcomings in today’s Senior Executive Teams such that they can assume this accountability along with all of the others they currently have.

In my next posting I will jump down our list of Basic Components to #5 – Organizational Culture. It is a companion to Top Down Data Leadership and is the reflection of how effective and persuasive that the Senior Executive Team is in both articulating and ultimately executing the Organizations’ Data, Information & Analytics Strategies & Tactics. Look for this next posting sometime soon.



In conjunction with a webinar that I am participating in on 2/29 ( ZD & IBM – “Get More from your Data: How Business Analytics Gives You a Competitive Advantage”), I am  posting  a series of four blogs entitled “Business Analytics and the Mid-Market“.

(To attend my webinar on 2/29, Register at: )

This is Final installment (No. 4).in that series; ”

To recap from my previous 3 postings;

  • Business Analytics (BA) is “the use of data & analysis techniques to understand your business in a a way that facilitates better decision making”. BA is “fact-based decision-making in real-time based upon a 360 degree view of the business. It portends to offer the highest potential for competitive advantage of any strategic enabler (much less tactical or operational) available in the business leaders portfolio today, much less the future.
  • To achieve true Competitive Advantage (CA) one must embrace the notion of Business Analytics  in a holistic fashion in order to create “a pervasive culture of analysis and numerical literacy”. The 5 components of a holistic approach are; People, Processes, Technology, Culture & Data
  • To achieve competitive advantage (via differentiation), much less sustain it, Organizations must make Business Analytics a core competency and foster its deep usage across all domains of the business. Business Analytics must be made pervasive across the organization
  • Critical to the successful creation of Competitive Advantage is the role of the Business Analytics Strategy. It should encompass all domains of your business and support the 5 Pillars (People, Processes, Technology, Culture & Data) of a holistic approach to Business Analytics.
  • A successful Business Analytics Strategy (BAS) is one that is fully-aligned and synergistic with the Organizations’ Long-Term Strategy (3-5 years) and companion Near-Term Strategic Goals & Outcomes (1-2 years).
  • The key to developing your Business Analytics Strategy is to find the entry and inflection points in your strategy’s execution where BA can be embedded and used as either a catalyst or an accelerator for success.
  • The value of having an Analytics Partner (AP) in this process is substantial and in the early stages of any organizations’ journey to Analytics Maturity they can make the difference between success and disappointment, much less outright failure.

“Choosing an Analytics Trusted Advisor to support your BA Strategic Planning Process”

At this point we have established that pervasive Business Analytics (BA) can be a game changer for every Organization. To achieve Competitive Advantage (CA) from Business Analytics you need a well defined Strategy that aligns all BA activities and outcomes with the Business Goals & Objectives (BG&O) defined in both the long-term and near-term strategies & tactics of the Organization. This alignment should be across all major domains of the Business/Organization. Fostering and leveraging synergies found in core information assets into Analytical Focus Areas that benefit the entire organization is the cornerstone of such a Business Analytics Strategy.

Developing a BAS requires collaboration and partnership with an Analytics Trusted Advisor in the vast majority of cases. Most organizations in the Mid-Market do not have the depth of personnel or base of applied experience required to create a comprehensive Business Analytics Strategy internally. Staff efforts are mainly focused on Operational Performance and Innovation Activities and not on strategy endeavors, therefore justifying the need for a Trusted Advisor as being paramount to success. Choosing a BA Trusted Advisor is an early step in your Analytics Journey (AJ) and should be done after a thorough and rigorous interview & selection process. There are many Business Intelligence consultancies who claim to be as good at Business Analytics, but one should be wary of such claims. Although the worlds of Information Management (IM), Business Intelligence (BI) and Business Analytics are merging together at many levels, the expertise required to develop a successful Business Analytics Strategy  is limited to a small community of Consultancies and Suppliers. In most cases you will have to take a long-term view of the partner whom you choose in the context of not only helping you to develop your BA Strategy, but ultimately helping you to acquire & deploy the necessary solutions & capabilities required to insure that the strategic outcomes successfully achieved. The Business Analytics Trusted Advisor will provide support in developing, testing and optimizing early Analytical Models & Data Sets. All of these activities will be complimented with an effective plan & activity set for Change Management & Cultural Adoption for your Organization. A holistic approach to your overall Business Analytics Strategy and its successful execution requires a long-term view of achieving success and the support of Trusted Advisor whom can provide all of these types of services to the levels required.

Choosing your Analytics Trusted Advisor does not need to be an arduous process. It could be as simple as engaging with an existing partner or conducting a quick survey of the leaders in the Business Analytics space who have focus areas on your type of business (Mid-Market) and industry segment (Service Providers, Software/Technology, Retail, etc.). The market leaders will all have consulting teams & solution sets optimized for the specifics of your size & type, as well as having a deep portfolio of  critical enablers for Business Analytics success e.g Strategy Templates, Specific Analytics Solution sets (Customer, Finance, Corporate Performance, etc.), Change Management collateral, Information Governance guidelines, etc. All of these elements will be required over the long haul as you move from Strategy to Execution t0 Outcomes. Additionally, your BA Trusted Advisor will bring an overall discipline to the overall approach by helping you to focus on early quick wins in your Analytics Journey, as you change your culture to being an Analytics-Driven one over time. The depth and maturity of your BA Trusted Advisors appraoch to achieving such outcomes while reducing risk to a manageable level is a Critical Success Factor that every organization should look from in their partner(s).

In the end, each Organization must define the criteria and process for choosing and engaging with an Analytics Trusted Advisor. Going it alone is fraught with risks and should only be advocated if the Organization believes that it has the depth of experience and know-how to achieve Analytics Success on their own. In choosing your Advisor one must look for a leader who has made/demonstrated a commitment to supporting Organizations of your size, ambitions and market focus. Only a handful of Consultancies/Suppliers in the marketplace rise to this level of distinction.

For more information on one such Trusted Advisor in the market (IBM), please check out the following links;