The Leader’s Data Manifesto Debuts: Making Data as an Asset Everyone’s Business

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data manifestoThe Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference in Atlanta was host to the announcement of The Leader’s Data Manifesto. The document, which you can sign here, urges that organizations embrace large scale change at the people, structural, and cultural level to truly become data-driven.

The Leader’s Data Manifesto is the work of data industry leading proponents Danette McGilvray, President and Principal of Granite Falls Consulting, Inc.; Kelle O’Neal, CEO and Founder, and John Ladley, President and Chief Delivery Officer, at First San Francisco Partners; Thomas Redman, the “Data Doc” at his Data Quality Solutions consulting firm; and, James Price, Founder and Managing Director of Australian information management firm Experience Matters.

It came about as the result of these data leaders putting their heads together to ponder the question: “Why does everyone say data is important and that it needs to be managed as an asset, and yet that largely still isn’t happening?”

Why don’t we give the same kind of attention to data assets as we do to people and money in our companies?” McGilvray said to the audience gathered to hear more about the Leader’s Data Manifesto at the early morning sessions. This is not to say that there isn’t plenty of strong Data Quality, Data Governance, analytics, and other work going on, she noted, with committed leadership building best practices around how to treat data as a real asset and success stories of how doing so pays off, especially at smaller-scale levels. But “we want to go bigger,” she said.

“We are not moving fast enough,” Redman added. “We need to be better and more efficient.”

The Data Manifesto thinks big: “Data offers enormous untapped potential,” it reads. That includes creating competitive advantage, new wealth and jobs, improved health care, greater safety, and otherwise improving the human condition. “We are unfit for data in a deep organizational way,” Redman said. But that can change. “We believe the best chance to improve the human condition lies in data,” he explained.

It’s an exciting proposition, but a challenging one, especially when it comes to boards, senior executives, and senior leaders thinking beyond immediate benefits to the business. One thought offered by Redman that might encourage buy-in by some to the larger value of data: Might this not be an opportunity to leave a legacy at career’s end, something more sustainable and far-reaching than the percentage returned to shareholders that year?

Another potential way to spur committed leadership and involvement across the organization to engage in what the Data Manifesto defines as “fundamental, lasting, company-wide change” in how data is viewed and treated: Let the past be a guide to your business’ future. Think, Ladley said, of the data-driven movement as so significant that it will go into the history books. “It is a tipping point for human society,” he said.

“Take a look at other major upheavals in the human condition, like the introduction of the steam engine,” Ladley said. “The laggards who wait [until such technologies] mature or are perfected [to use them] are the businesses that disappeared.”

Spreading the Word and Stepping Out

Sporting a stylish one-page graphical design, the Data Manifesto is designed for data practitioners to pin up in their cubicles and hand out to their non-data colleagues, too. “Change happens with the acceptance of an idea,” said Ladley.

Data practitioners come to conferences like Enterprise Data World to help their businesses become more data-driven, O’Neal noted. But as much as their colleagues may talk up the importance of data, they are as likely to behave in ways that indicate they don’t truly believe it to be a priority – whether that’s ignoring it or sharing it inappropriately. “We have to think about how to convince the rest of our teams to become data-driven,” she said.

The call to action includes data practitioners taking the ideas behind the Manifesto to their senior leadership and boards – to help compel them, as Redman described, to walk away from the notion that data is something that belongs to IT. Make the case to them that Data Quality, for example, matters to them, too, because it affects their ability to trust the reports they receive and upon which they must base key decisions. Leadership should take to heart the call to better care for data and advance a management system suited to its rigors, as part of the data vision they owe their shareholders and constituents, the Data Manifesto says.

In addition to senior management and boards conflating – and confusing – data with IT or digitalization, the Data Manifesto states that root causes for Data Management issues in organizations lie in people not fully knowing what they have or is most important; in lacking a data vision or Data Strategy defining how data contributes to their business; and, in underestimating the effort required to manage data.

To that end, the Data Manifesto explains that it’s important for data professionals to reach out on a number of fronts, to interact with people across the organizations to understand their problems and what is important to them and teach them about data’s role in helping resolve their issues. “So much of work is being done behind computer screens,” Redman says. “This is a call for data pros to get out there.”

Another idea that infuses the Data Manifesto is that it’s often been left to individuals in the middle of an organization to breed data change: They start a great Data Quality program because they haven’t been able to get what they need so they take on the task themselves, and gain enormous benefits for the business in the process that they can hold up to the organization. Redman calls these individuals data provocateurs, and ideally it is everyone who needs data to do his or her job that will join their ranks.

“Virtually everyone can be a data provocateur,” he said, and the Data Manifesto asks them to accept that role to drive change. “You don’t need lots of funding, you can start with what you can do in the context of your current job” – whether that’s better data, better alignment with the business, better merging of agile and data architectures, and so on.

Data Touchpoints

  • The Leader’s Data Manifesto joins other prominent documents that ask organizations to think more about how much data matters to organizations and how to enable its value to shine.
  • The Data Doctrine, authored by Data Blueprint Founder Peter Aiken and New York State CDO Todd Harbour, provides principles to guide organizations that are attempting to better use data as an asset, such as valuing data programs before software projects, stable data structures before stable code, and shared data before completed software.
  • The Data-Centric Manifesto, launched by Semantic Arts, provides an actionable way to put data at the center of the enterprise rather than the current application-centric model that is, it says, at the heart of most problems with enterprise systems. The leadership-oriented Leader’s Data Manifesto, says Semantic Arts president Dave McComb, is “another leg to the stool.”

O’Neal closed the session on The Leader’s Data Manifesto by calling on the audience to be the leaders in their professions and communities, sharing the Data Manifesto and debating it. “We want to create a movement for change,” she said, and that extends to offering ideas and opinions and success stories on its web site. Said O’Neal, “If you believe and accept the idea that data has untapped potential and is the best opportunity for your organization to have organic growth, then sign the manifesto.”

Approximately 100 attendees at EDW signed live at the event.


Here is the video of the Enterprise Data World 2017 Presentation:


Photo Credit: dizain/

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