Archives For Strategy

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)

The UK’s: Government Digital Service (GDS), the US’s: Digital Services (USDS) and Australia’s: Digital Transformation Authority (DTA) are all train wrecks in every meaningful measure of success.

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Preface:

I spoke at Data for Policy 2016 this past September on the issue of “You can’t have Data-driven Policy if your Leaders are Analytics Illiterate” (http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ ). I wanted to follow-up on those thoughts with this posting.

Body:*

Strategy is the path that Leaders divine for Organizations to take in pursuing their short and long-term Goals (Outcomes). Leadership is the glue that keeps everyone & everything together during the course of pursuing these Strategic Outcomes. Data Literacy is the new intellectual underpinning of every successful Strategy going forward.  All three working in concert is how Organizations’ can exploit the potential of Data & Analytics for Strategic Success at the expense of their competition or to delight their Citizens. It’s what I refer to as “Embracing the Data Leadership Nexus”.

We now live in a time where every Champion of Industry, Politician & Civil Servant, is a self-proclaimed expert on Strategy and Leadership and yet most (if not all), are Data (& Analytics) Illiterate. Having no specific first-hand knowledge or experience in the domains of data, analytics & decision science, they continue to rely on “processed information” (via so-called Data Scientists) and personal gut instinct to formulate plans, make decisions with and to react to emerging situations. Without hesitation, each decides what balance of “head and heart” they will use for each & every decision. In a dangerous twist, many “Leaders” in recent times have decided to ignore Facts & Evidence altogether and base their decisions solely on Ideology. I am certain that most of our readers are aware of these as borne out in the major political calamities of 2016.

There are many who aspire to the mantle of leadership. It is a tough road for most with many pitfalls along the way. Surmounting these challenges is part of the maturation & hardening process that Leaders must go through to earn their stripes. The challenges leaders face today and in the future, will be many and ever-growing in terms of complexity (and nuance), but they now have at their disposal science-based Facts, Evidence and Methodologies for making data-driven decisions at every turn. All that is required is belief in the notion of data-driven decisioning and basic literacy & competencies in the use of data & analysis to underpin decisions, insights & ultimately strategy (and tactics).  While straightforward in respect to need, the efforts required to overcome the lack of Data Literacy by Leaders are substantial. The current (much less next) generation of Leaders and Leadership candidates are not equipped intellectually and experientially to be truly data-driven. They must be mentored, tutored and enlightened by examples of where data-driven decisions have paid off in terms of differentiation, insights, risk mitigation, etc. This approach will allow them to experience first-hand the personal growth that comes from investing time and effort in Data Literacy endeavors and the benefits that manifest from it. It will also heavily influence other Leaders and those on the Leadership track as to what the future holds in respect to competencies and the outcomes that can be achieved by a data-driven approach.

Leaders today face a barrage of hype about Big Data, Digital & Analytics. Few actually understand what any of it truly means, but all want to “have some” for their Organization. This paradox of need vs. understanding must be addressed through Data Literacy endeavors. Only then will be have Leaders (and those in waiting) who are competent in the domains of data, analytics, decision science and yes, even digital. They will then have the acumen (and confidence) to define Core Strategies that will leverage these competencies to achieve specific & sustainable Outcomes for their Organization, regardless of sector. It will also bring to an end to the nonsensical notion that Data & Analytics, Decision Science and Digital are “bolt-on” functional capabilities that require separate strategies (or Transformation Program to make them achievable. Every Organization, regardless of size, sector or mission statement must use its Core Competencies in an integrated form to create Strategic Advantage. Leadership that is literate in these same domains is well positioned to exploit them fully, while reducing inherent risks to a manageable level of tolerance. This is what Strategy has done for decades using stone tablets and chisels and will excel at in the future by exploiting the benefits of Data Literacy from the top down.

Post Script:

For further insights see McKinsey’s two (late 2016) essential studies on data & analytics “Making data analytics work for you—instead of the other way around”, & “The age of analytics: Competing in a data-driven world”.

 * – An edited version of this posting appears in the January 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com) 

 

A precursor to my discussion*:

  1. Digital has become such an amorphous term that few can describe what it actually means anymore
  2.  An effective Digital Strategy needs to be based on the Organization’s Core Strategic Objectives

Discussion:

Just prior to the New Year the UK Government quietly posted a notification that it was “seeking ideas for the next phase of the Digital Revolution”. From what I have seen in terms of those responses, they might have been better served by standing on a soapbox at Speakers Corner in Hype Park and asking passers by for their opinions, as their call to action has unleashed a torrent of “thought pieces”, Opinions & rants from virtually every corner of the UK.

Over the past several years, I have followed with great interest all of the Digital Transformation Programs that central governments across the world have embraced in their efforts to bring “Digital to the Masses”, while improving Government services, efficiencies, etc. Most of these have now evolved into “cults” with every agenda seeker and crackpot out there opining the virtues of their “flavor of digital” on social media and at every conference imaginable. During this same time, we have seen ever-increasing budgets allocated to these programs, high levels of management attrition and dubious ROI results being promoted as “savings realized”, but the single most glaring aspect that troubles me in virtually all of them is;  “What is the long-term Strategy”? It certainly can’t be just making better web sites or training the entire population to “hack code”? It is in this vain that I offer my opinion on “What is needed & what is not in the UK’s next Digital Strategy.”

As “digital” has now become a word without a stable definition, I will endeavor to ground my discussion in the basic notion that; “Digital as a term encompasses all disciplines in respect to embracing all that the Web, Data & Analytics have to offer”.  I refer to these as core competencies and believe that they must be leveraged in an Organization’s strategy in order to be an enabler of the desired outcomes from it. The UK (whether in or out of the EU in the future) must create a competitive strategy that makes its relevant on the world stage in order to capture inordinate levels of external investment, to develop the greatest talent pool in all sectors, etc., all at the expense of its peers. This notion of differentiation is a much more business-like view of the needs of a country, but most have been evolving their thinking in this direction for quite some time now. If the UK wants to “punch above its weight” in the world then it needs to make its core competencies the strongest & most sustainable anywhere, which cannot be easily duplicated or commoditized by countries motivated to do so.

What’s Needed? (to achieve this outcome):

  • Use “Digital” as a focal point to create sustainable sources of competitive advantage for the UK by baking it into every aspect of the long-term strategy for the country (independent of whatever party is in power) and the goals which it must be achieved i.e. Not a fashion statement or feel good program.
  • Develop Digital Leaders (Civil Service, Cabinet Office, MP’s, Charities, etc.) who are more than cheerleaders and partisan politicians. Educate everyone from the earliest age, throughout their entire academic & trade school careers to be literate in Digital, regardless of class or age. Promote Digital Leaders based upon competency and acumen (merit), not beauty, charm or politics. Develop Digital Leaders who “walk to talk” every day.
  • Create a National Culture that embraces “Digital at every turn”, not just one that consumes interesting content over broadband. Make Digital know-how essential to daily life in all Sectors of Government, Commercial & Non-Profit.
  • Invest inordinately in Education, Leadership Development, Infrastructure & Culture to create sustainable sources of competitive advantage in “All things Digital”.

What’s not Needed?

  • Superlatives & Exemplars: Digital is an evolutionary transition from the Analog world we have known for centuries. It is not disruptive, but can be transformational if executed with speed and precision. Hype is not of value in any strategy.
  • Grandiose predictions as to the impact of Outcomes or capabilities. At best, Digital is incremental in terms of benefits and sources of competitive advantage. It is the execution that is critical, not the idea itself. Benefits will manifest over the long term i.e. Transformational
  • Exclusion of any Sector from participation or realization of the full benefits of the Strategy and its outcomes. All boats must rise accordingly in this strategic journey.

A long-term Competitive Strategy for the UK should fully leverage all of its investments & know-how in Digital to date (Capabilities, Infrastructure & People) in order to create clear lines of differentiation in respect to other Countries who are pursuing similar paths, as well as to build sustainability for this momentum far into the future. The realization of  these outcomes will insure maximum benefits to the entire country and all of its citizens for decades to come.

Further Reading:

“What is Digital Transformation and Why do I need to embrace it?” (https://infomgmtexec.me/2015/10/29/what-is-digital-transformation-why-do-i-need-to-embrace-it/)

“Changes in Digital Transformation Leadership: Anarchy or Opportunity?” (https://infomgmtexec.me/2015/10/16/changes-in-digital-transformation-leadership-anarchy-or-opportunity/)

 

 

*- An edited version of this posting appeared in the February 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).

 

 

 

In January 2015 I wrote in my Information Age column about what I referred to as: “2015 – The Year of Data Leadership” (posted on my blog as well: http://bit.ly/1SCPZVr). I wrote on this topic periodically over the course of 2015 and included updates in my presentations at the PASS – “Business Analytics Conference (June – Santa Clara)” & Information Age’s “Data Leadership 2015 (November – London)”. Now that the year is finally complete and as we enter 2016 with a full head of steam, I would like to share with all of you a Report Card that I developed which “grades” the progress (or not) that was made in respect to executing on the basic elements of my Data Leadership Nexus.

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

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

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

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

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

The 2015 Data Leadership Report Card

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

My Grading Rationale is as follows;

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

RL

 

 

 

 

 

October & November will be frantic months of activities with a strong focus on Conferences. Check back often for updates and additions. In most cases I will be Tweeting and Blogging live from each conference;

Conferences:

Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP): “2014 Change Connect Symposium” – October 1-2 – Microsoft Campus Commons (http://www.acmppnwnetwork.org/?page_id=326)

Digital Analytics Association (DAA): “Monster Analytics Mashup” – October 16th – Microsoft Conference Center (http://www.digitalanalyticsassociation.org/calendar_day.asp?date=10/16/2014&event=260#.VCWfF8LF-yM)

Information Age (UK): “Data Leadership 2014” – October 30th – The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel (London) (http://www.dataleadership.co.uk) :

Keynote: “Embracing The Data Leadership Nexus for Strategic Success”

UK Open Data Initiative: “ODI Summit 2014” – November 2-4 – British Film Institute (London) (http://summit.theodi.org/)

Articles:

IBM Big Data Hub: “The Privacy Corner”. “Discrimination and Other Abuses drive the Need for Ethics in Big Data” (http://ibm.co/1sKmkx0)

Information Age (UK): “Transforming into a Predictive Enterprise” (http://www.information-age.com/technology/information-management/123458506/holy-grail-big-data-becoming-predictive-enterprise)

Information Age (UK): “The State of Open Data” (November 15th (URL to be posted at time of publishing)

IBM Big Data Hub: “The Privacy Corner”. “Have we already lost the Privacy battle?” (November – Date TBD)

The Data Leadership Nexus (Blog):

“Reflections on Data Leadership 2014” (November 4th)

“How to Successfully Execute your Transformational Plan for becoming a Predictive Enterprise” (November 15th)

“The Data Leadership Nexus: (Recap)” (Updates throughout the month) (https://infomgmtexec.me/2014/09/16/recap-the-data-leadership-nexus/)