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I’m not really a big fan of online or remote interaction – frequently exacerbated by my failure to properly harness new technology. But needs must and, for me at least, working from home is going to be my new normal for the foreseeable future, so I thought I’d better start embracing it! Back in November I attended my first ever virtual conference – the IRM MDM and Data Governance summit. I’ve been a regular attendee at this event for more than 10 years as a delegate, speaker and sponsor. This is not a paid advert by the way - based on my personal experience I would say to anyone that this is a really valuable peer to peer learning event for data management professionals. As such I wanted to get the most out of it, to try and recreate the in-person experience and catch up with people in my network. So I committed to ‘be in the room’.
I remember a keynote from a previous IRM event, delivered by Nigel Risner:
He challenged the audience to be in the room. “Do you live your life in the present or past tense? If you are in the room, be in the room. If your mind is elsewhere you might as well leave now.”
I can’t recall everything he said – I was somewhat distracted by the multitude of animal hats he was wearing and the fact that at the end of it I think I concluded I was a Dolphin……but I did leave my phone in my bag and try to pay proper attention to the speakers and presentations that followed.
So on November 3rd 2020 I booked 2 days off for personal development in the work calendar, switched on my Out of Office notification, logged out of my work email and sat down with the conference agenda, circling the sessions that most interested me. This included a virtual wine tasting guided by a sommelier (@diegosomm) from Argentina – yum! I treated anything marked on the agenda as a networking break as just that – not a catch up with email opportunity. I had some lovely video chats with people in the breakout rooms. And I popped along to the sponsors area to look at what solutions were being promoted, now that GDPR is ‘old news’.
It is much harder to ‘be in the room’ in a virtual environment. The platform format helped quite a lot with that. Sessions were auto-scheduled and if you were late for the start you missed the first few minutes . I think if everything was ‘on demand’ I’d have found it harder to commit the time. The presenters were on video – they couldn’t see you, but the fact that you can see who’s talking makes it easier to listen. You could type in Q & A in real time so there was some ‘live’ interaction. And, unlike the in-person event, this time I could download the whole presentation the next day – not just the slides. So often it’s the commentary that sparks the light bulb moment – not the words on the page. On the concluding panel session someone also pointed out that if you’d chosen a session unwisely (I’ve sat through some ‘big data’ ones in my time where the presenter could have been speaking in a foreign language for all that I understood) you could just switch over – no more needing to do the walk of shame and try and sneak out of the rear doors.
So did I prefer the virtual platform to the in-person event? No - but I did enjoy it and I think that was down to the fact that I committed to “be in the room”. Whilst I was having a lovely time catching up with past colleagues I should take this opportunity to apologise to my current ones as I really did put the day job aside for two days – but I have some great Argentinean wine recommendations if you need them!
Mary Drabble is the Principal Data Governance Analyst at Standard Life Aberdeen, leading a team embedding the organisation-wide Data Governance Implementation Framework. Mary has a proven track record in Master Data Management, Data Governance and Data Quality tools, methodologies, architectures and processes. Prior to taking on an end user role, as a consultant with more than 15 years’ experience in Information Management, she helped clients across all industries in a wide variety of engagements ranging from Analytical to Operational data and information management solutions.
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This is a different type of blog! I'm Lisa Allen and I am a data professional who has worked in data for many years. Recently, Nicola Askham interviewed me for DAMA UK on the topic of data governance. During the interview, I referred to several different resources and I promised to share them with you all, so here they are. But to start with, if you missed the interview, you can find it here:
With so many to choose from, I find myself on these more often than most.
If you’re just starting in data governance the Data Management Book of Knowledge (DMBoK) is a must-read. And even if you are experienced, it is a handy reference guide.
Personal skills are essential for data governance. How to influence, how to deal with conflict and make yourself resilient etc. These all can help you on your journey. To develop your personal and leadership skills I’d highly recommend:
Data technical skills
To keep learning what is going on in the world of data I listen to the following:
Examples of data principles and data maturity models
As a data professional, I think it helps to refer to other organisations approaches for ideas and tips. Here are a few examples to help you on your way.
And finally, if you’d like to see an example of a data maturity model here’s a blog that explains the approach and a link to the model itself.
That’s it! I hope you find these resources useful. There are so many more out there. Let us know what resources you use in your data governance approach.
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The UK Government launched its National Data Strategy (NDS) in 2020, the government sought feedback from all industries, from 9th September to 9th December, focusing on the following key topic:
1. Unlocking the value of data across the economy
2. Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime
3. Transforming the government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services.
4. Ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies
5. Championing the international flow of data
Why DAMA UK responded to the NDS Consultation?
Data and information are key enterprise assets that support an organisation. DAMA UK’s mission is to nurture a community of data professionals in the UK who champion the value of data management. We do this by connecting people, providing resources, and supporting development.
Therefore, DAMA UK is in a unique position to provide a response with and on behalf of our members, who cover the width and breadth of data professionals in the UK. Our members are from a plethora of industries and sectors including but not limited to, charity, utilities, defence, communication, education, government, agriculture, and health etc.
DAMA UK’s Position on the NDS Consultation
DAMA UK is passionate both about the future of data and the development of data professionals in the UK. We play an active part in the Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBoK), which includes the combined knowledge of data professionals around the world. We support the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) qualification. Which certifies data professionals around the world in the disciplines of data management, ensuring a common standard.
DAMA UK strongly supports the principles behind the UK National Data Strategy.
Approach to the response
I led a small subcommittee. We reached out to the DAMA UK’s membership through the monthly newsletter, blogs, monthly Bright Talk events and via all DAMA UK’s social media channels including LinkedIn and Twitter. With a month to respond to the consultation, our members responded from their respective industries which gave us a varied and wide-ranging response. Our subcommittee curated the material into our government NDS Consultation document. You can review our collated response here.
The government will publish its response to the consultation in early 2021. Subject to the consultation’s findings, the government may carry out further consultation or provide details of any potential changes to the current framework strategy.
It's an exciting time to be in data in the UK. Watch this space, as there may be an opportunity to further input into the UK's National Data Strategy.
Lastly, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of our members who contributed to the response!
Season’s greetings and Happy New Year
Akhtar Ali is Vice Chair of DAMA UK. A Data & Information Governance specialist with a wealth of experience in creating and implementing data vision and strategy. Akhtar has an extensive experience of working in the utilities industry, where he has gained both regulatory and commercial experience. He has a proven track record in Records Retention, GDPR, Data Governance, Data Quality tools, and Information Management, supported by strong Change Management and Business Transformation skills.
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Tomas Sanchez’s blog described how doing the right thing by data can feel like a curse – something that resonated with many of us, who face the same challenge in our organisations. Lisa Allen’s blog proposed some practical advice to tackling “the curse” – giving data a voice, taking a structured approach and using data storytelling. All great suggestions, but what if your organisation still resists implementing them? How can you spot the opposing behaviours and be forearmed with actions to finally lift the curse?
So here is some advice I would give:
Find the earlier blogs here:
Tomas Sanchez – The Curse of doing right for data https://www.dama-uk.org/Blog/9222122
Lisa Allen – What is data done right https://www.dama-uk.org/Blog/9320297
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Part 2: What is data done right?
As Tomas Sanchez set out in the first blog of this series, data management can often feel like a curse of doing right for data. I’m going to talk to you about practical advice to help you address some of the challenges you may face.
As many people are aware data is a vital asset for an organisation. It enables better understanding, allows you to gain insight and make better decisions. But organisations don’t always value it as such an asset. As a data professional this is challenging, but it is also your calling to turn this around for your organisation. Here are several practical steps that can help you to do right for data.
1. A voice for data
Whereas other functions like Human Resources or Finance have departments that give them a voice, not all organisations have a Data Department. As a data professional you can ensure data has a voice in your organisation by addressing the following areas:
2. A structured approach
Data spans so many different disciplines and touches every part of the business. It can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some tips:
3. Data story telling
Being able to tell stories about the data and why people should care helps engage your organisation and get them onboard. Here are some things to consider:
And finally, for me, it’s all about positivity. Data transformations can be hard. But with drive and enthusiasm success will come and, when they do, celebrate the successes. If these things were easy then your organisation wouldn’t need you. But they do.
Lisa Allen – Is Head of Data and Analytical Services at Ordnance Survey. A seasoned data professional with experience across government. Lisa is a committee member of DAMA UK nurturing a community of data professionals across the UK.
This is part of a three-part series. Next hear from Sarah Burnett:
Part 3: Main symptoms of the curse
What are the main obstacles, arguments and reasons that organisations give for not implementing changes? What are the behaviours to look for? What does management and those organisations do to cope with the lack of change when results are needed.
You can read part 1 here:
The Curse of doing data right
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Part 1: What is the curse?
Very few people will disagree that having a solid foundation for data is a good idea. This includes many of those things that we hear all the time, such as good data quality, common standards, or a good catalogue where we can find all our data assets. This is the same for more technical foundational topics, such as metadata, master / reference data, data modelling, and so on. Once we, data professionals, can explain what these things mean, the general response tends to be positive: essentially, everybody agrees these are good things to have.
Getting to implement this foundation, however, is a different story. Because data is the backbone of most organisations these days, any serious attempt to review and modify how data is managed will affect users and could fundamentally change their ways of working. And it is then, when users realise that they are at the core of implementing changes across the organisation. It is their responsibility too, not just the data professional job and here are where the problems start. The same organisation that has probably invested in hiring data professionals to “fix” its data problems, will start making excuses for why many of the measures can’t be implemented. Users and management will argue that operations will be disrupted, deadlines will be missed or that it is not the right time. Some organisations will agree to proceed with the less disruptive proposals, but of course, those will also be the ones with less impact or will incur technical debt that will need to be fixed later. Chances are that months and years will pass and little will change; at best, there will be an improvement of awareness and some minor initiatives will be carried out. At worse, the organisation will dismiss advice or try to solve the problems by investing in technology products, which will never work because the foundations were never fixed.
Data in an interesting technical field. It is in so much demand, but so misunderstood. There are a wide variety of areas of expertise with radically different skill sets, and yet often the field gets oversimplified by putting all data professionals in the same bucket. For example, data scientists / analysts are many times thought of as holding the key to solve many data issues. But the issues normally stem from poor data quality or interoperability, which is not something that data scientist or analysist can (or should) address. Along the same lines, data problems are something to be resolved upstream i.e. once the data has been collected and stored. But, to solve quality issues one needs to start at source i.e. where data is collected, stored and shared. This misunderstanding is one of the main reasons why there is such a disparity between the willingness to invest in data professionals and the reluctance to carry out their advice.
Organisations are ill-prepared to undertake the scale of changes that are being advised. They put in place obstacles to attempt managing the disruption, and so the main reasons why these change projects take such a long time are not technical, but cultural. Work is carried out to justify investment, but there is unwillingness to fix the root cause of the problem. Data scientists / analysts are hired to produce results, which invariably means creating inefficient and inconsistent shortcuts to put the data in a form that can be analysed. In turn, the data professionals that provided the advice for change in the first case, see that advice dismissed or underappreciated, and fall victims of the contradiction in which the organisation finds itself. As those professional become frustrated, and as they continue pointing out how the organisation is doing things in the wrong way, they sometimes can become disliked and even ostracised, which increases their frustration as, in their view, they are just trying to achieve what they were hired to do.
The cycle continues, with investment in data infrastructure but without the willingness to implement the necessary changes. For those responsible for the change, sometimes this situation might feel like a curse, the curse of doing right for data. But it’s not all doom and gloom; there is a growing community of data professionals who are supporting each other with doing data right. Which is exactly what our next blog will talk about!
This is the first blog of a 3-part series looking at the challenges of data professionals within their organisations. Join us next month where Lisa Allen will talk about what data management changes are commonly required and why organisations find them challenging.
Tomas is currently the Chief Data Architect at the Office for National Statistics, where he is leading ONS’s data strategy as well as being responsible for a number of data products. Tomas also regularly gets involved in forums and initiatives to foster the use of good data management practices across government.