I attended the 2nd annual Women’s Data Leaders’ Global Summit last week, which was held virtually. Attending any virtual event can be tricky. Will it be engaging? How many distractions will pull me away? Will it turn into a huge sales event and a big waste of my time? All my fears were alleviated over the two-day event. I was excited to participate in the conversation about Data Driven Business Transformation and be in a virtual space with amazing professionals and leaders and was fortunate to be able to fully engage. There were way too many topics to cover in real time over the two-day agenda, so I collaborated with a couple of my colleagues, and we divided and conquered. We shared insights and learnings via Teams chat & a shared virtual notebook filled with our juicy notes. Thankfully all sessions were recorded and will be posted on the CDO Magazine website.
Below are my own top 3 session picks:
· Democratizing data for business analysts
· Scaling your data organization and expertise as data grows
· The CDO’s relationships: How to make an impact in your organization
There were so many interesting topics and conversations, including answers to live questions posted from participants. I noticed that I gravitated more to topics in ‘The Human Factor’ area, while my colleague’s top choice was geared around ‘Leadership & Governance for a Transforming World’. After a good debrief and chat session, I have summarized my four key takeaways.
1. Everyone Wants Data
There is an abundance of data, and everybody wants it. We have embraced the democratization of data but should be moving beyond just the barriers of access. Democratizing data for all means that the data that is available, is available in the right way and within seconds. There are some golden truths we should live by. If you have it, you know you are allowed to have it, you can use it and it can be trusted. There is a lot of groundwork that needs to be completed before we can get to that stage. It’s a struggle for most. There are a lot of analysts and data scientists that waste a lot of time searching for the data they need, requesting access to it, massaging, and cleansing it, just to get it to a workable set which may produce a valuable business outcome. [alteryx anyone?] Data Democratization is about Governance, Trust, Data Literacy - not about Access! Below is a thoughtful approach to how to begin to build it from the bottom up.
1. Build a solid Data Governance Foundation (including reference architecture & a selection of tools that fit into the broader data supply chain platform)
2. Upskill teams working with data as well as the entire enterprise (Data Literacy/Education)
3. Produce significant wins that win over trust (data products such as a catalogue, master customer data, and a data council with data stewardship)
4. Make tools available but be sure to sunset any noise (Business Intelligence to enable self-service but not overcrowded)
5. Ensure it can scale and that the rest of the company came along in the journey
2. "It Takes A Village"
Throughout the conference I heard this phrase multiple times. The meaning behind it is to convey that it is not up to just one person or any one department to do it alone; It takes everyone working together, the CDO alone can't transform data into gold. It takes partnering, listening, and learning (wink, data literacy) and that learning goes both ways. Typically, we see a federated data operating model being implemented where a centralized hub manages all the data centrally and offers enterprise-wide products and services. There are benefits to having a hub because it exists to be the center of excellence, and should be; however, it shouldn’t stop there. Everyone must step up and recognize that each spoke has a role to play as well. The foundation should be strong, but the model should be flexible in how much you centralize and how much you decentralize. There is a human factor beyond just the framework. The dialogue, the conversations that should be happening with stakeholders, is key. You can build something then try and go sell it (that is the hard way) versus figuring out what your organization cares about through those conversations. Then build a centralized capability (data product) to what they care about most. Listen to their problems to develop vital data assets. Instead of coming from a centric point of view, leverage quick wins by helping to solve a business problem or issue. Federate the knowledge to ensure that as many people as possible across the organization are speaking the same common language. If that is mastered, it creates a pipeline of ideas where data can be leveraged. Collectively, the company is driving the best value out of those capabilities.
3. Trust is King…(or Queen)
Building trust is no easy feat, but as the king or queen of data, it is your duty. Often the people in this role feel a big fatigue as if looking at a big, huge mountain in front of them. Today, more and more CDO’s are feeling more confident but are only getting to that space because they are taking it one step at a time and becoming more patient. The role is being accepted and they are building trust in themselves and with others so that they are not being questioned along with the data. This may come with experience in the role, but we are seeing more data leaders be more strategic in their yearly planning activities. No longer are they assuming that the most valuable data assets are the ones that are the loudest. These may be requested more frequently; however, may not be the most valuable on their minds. There is data that no one knows about that could be valuable, but since no one knows about it or hasn't found access to it yet, we haven't thought about the opportunity to use it.
4. Use a Lighthouse Approach
There will be times where it feels overwhelming. A good mantra to begin to practice should be, ‘It’s a journey not the destination.’ It is easy to get lost at sea, but to get grounded, follow the lighthouse. The lighthouse approach is to focus on the big business outcomes as the light (direction) and how we build not only the foundation, but the path forward. The CDO is not an island onto itself and can’t do it all at the same time. Use the lighthouse approach as you navigate finding balance between business needs that drive value, building foundational capabilities, and pursuing innovation. It’s essential to remember that using the lighthouse approach is not about reaching a destination per se, but instead a method to ‘lay out breadcrumbs’ that will have impacts on decisions being made 10 years from now.
For a virtual conference, it was surprising how connected I felt to these amazing speakers and how these data topics are truly universal no matter the industry. Data is important to everyone, and it is such an opportunity to share in the stories of experience and learn from others in this journey.
Join the conversation - leave your thoughts at the comments section below.