The Leader’s Data Manifesto: Time to Focus on Why Data Management Matters

By on

Data ManifestoThe Leader’s Data Manifesto, originally unveiled at the Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference, continues to generate attention from data professionals. The Manifesto counts hundreds of signatories at this point, expressing their support of its vision for data and information to be truly valued and managed as a business asset. Signers-on include Data Quality managers, Chief Data Value Officers, Business Intelligence managers, Data Architects and Data Modelers, Enterprise Architects, Data Governance leaders, and more.

The Manifesto aims to inspire “fundamental, lasting, company-wide change” to unlock data’s potential, and that requires committed leadership and the involvement of everyone in an organization.

John Ladley, President of First San Francisco Partners and one of the leads behind the Manifesto, noted during this year’s presentation at Enterprise Data World 2018 that “we are trying to create a cultural momentum here, with a single uniform statement in the industry.” That purpose was echoed by those who have signed the Manifesto. One of them, for instance, said,

“I agree with the core concepts and principles stated in this Manifesto and also believe we can all make a difference, one project, discussion, and example at a time to create cultural change.”

Still, a year after the publication of the Manifesto, many business executives have yet to embrace that cultural change. Of the 300 people who have signed the manifesto, all of them were data people, Ladley noted. Why the hesitancy for business execs to be a part of that cultural change, too?

For one thing, “it’s hard stuff and hard to get buy-in and engagement when you don’t quite understand what’s going on,” Ladley said. “Valuable data is as crucial as land, labor, and capital.” To get that message across, there now needs to be a “show me the money” approach that makes business leaders understand that view enough to drive action.

A lack of action, in fact, is keeping a lot of companies from reaping the benefits that result when they truly become data-driven businesses. That means that “we as a community have to make a big shift,” according to Danette McGilvray, president and principal of Granite Falls Consulting, Inc. and also one of the minds behind the Manifesto.

As the signatory mentioned above noted, it’s going to take not just discussions but also projects and examples whose successful outcomes hopefully will make a difference.

It’s okay for data professionals to start small when it comes to showing how the fruits of their labor contributes to building a data-driven business. Initially, it doesn’t have to be the C-level suite that needs to be shown the positive results that good Data Management has on projects. Data people may not always have direct access that high up the chain. So, they can start with providing evidence of project successes to mid-tier business managers to illustrate why Data Management matters.

Networking beyond peers, within data groups with line-of-business managers, is important, as making those connections means that the results achieved by strong Data Management will ultimately be discussed and displayed up the organizational ladder. Ideally, it will reach the point where the highest-ranking execs realize that they owe it to their stakeholders and other concerned parties to do more to move the organization in this direction.

“As the CEO is responsible to the board to accomplish business targets, she/he has to exercise Data Leadership and ensure that a Chief Data Officer is appointed to take business responsibility for data, like the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Human Resources Officer already do for their respective resource realms,” commented one of the Manifesto’s signers.

Laura Sebastion-Coleman, a Data Quality leader at Aetna and previously at Cigna, and author of Measuring Data Quality for Ongoing Improvement, spoke about steps she took to turn the principles of the Manifesto into action. “I really do believe that data is transformative,” she noted, and to that end she shared the Manifesto with colleagues.

A corporate communications officer who learned of it was impressed enough to blog on it, drawing attention to the cause from those outside the data groups. “It became a really good tool for being able to talk to people and to be a touchpoint for the Data Quality community of practice,” Sebastion-Coleman said, and for reminding the enterprise of why the data organization was there in the first place.

“What else is there in your company that gives an 80 percent return on the work you’re doing?” McGilvray asked. “Nothing. Everything about the potential of data far outshines any other investments we can make in a company.”

Going Forward with Data Management

In a recent Data Management survey undertaken by James Price, Founder and Managing Director of Experience Matters who also spearheaded the Manifesto, there was some recognition by respondents that that message is getting across. While only 2.4 percent of the invited parties completed the survey (invites initially were sent to law firms), 44 percent of respondents acknowledged there was competitive advantage to be had from good information management.

An even larger percentage (65 percent) noted that they knew they could suffer a loss of reputation from not managing data well, McGilvray reported. Fifty-four percent of the firms didn’t know where to look for information to carry out their tasks; for some that translated into spending a couple of hours a day either trying to locate the data they needed or to recreate it. But just the fact that people were willing to take the survey “shows that we are starting to change attitudes about managing data as an asset,” she said.

“Showing the connection between business action success and data in the 21st century” is critical, Ladley noted. “Leaders want to know what’s in it for them.” What is in it for them, he said, is transformative: Most organizations have a hard time organically growing and they’re trying hard to monetize their data to accomplish that, rather than mainly counting on acquisitions or mergers, he pointed out. “Differentiating itself with data is the only way in the 21st century that companies will be able to grow” or even to stay alive. For the executives that want to know what’s in it for them, the answer is survival. “It’s that simple,” he said.

Good Data Management means just as much to the non-corporate world and its leaders as it does to the enterprise, too. Said McGilvray, “Data Management is fundamentally important to healthcare, to elections, to education. Data underlies it all.”

Others agree, with one Leader’s Data Manifesto signatory explaining that:

“Data has an amazing potential to be part of the answer to improving society for us all through an increasingly insight-driven world. This is a great first step to grow a data movement to deliver an Information Revolution.”

Happily, there is a sense of hope among data professionals that, as one signatory wrote, “these ideas will find the language, branding, and the channels to go viral, and get a legitimate seat at the table with contemporary concepts like “app,” “Cloud,” “mobile,” and “Agile.”


Check out Enterprise Data World at


Here is the video of the Enterprise Data World 2018 Presentation:


Photo Credit: Phonlamai Photo/

Leave a Reply