Speaker Spotlight Column: Daragh O Brien on Information Quality

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edw2013-speaker-spotlightby Charles Roe

DATAVERSITY™ recently interviewed Daragh O Brien, the Managing Director at Castlebridge Associates. Daragh will be giving two sessions at the Enterprise Data World 2014 Conference in Austin, Texas from April 27 – May 1, 2014. His first session is titled “Data Privacy & Protection in a Big Data World.” His second session is a tutorial is titled “Executing Sustainable Information Quality” and will be co-presented with Joy Medved, the Senior Director of Data Quality & Governance at ServiceSource.

The Speaker Spotlight Column (and its parallel venture the Sponsor Spotlight Column) is an ongoing project that focuses on highlighting several of the central issues represented at the many Data Management conferences produced by DATAVERSITY.

The primary emphasis of the interview was to question Daragh O Brien on his work and history within the industry, with particular importance on his presentation at the upcoming conference. This interview discusses his second session, the tutorial. His first session is covered in a different interview:

DATAVERSITY (DV): What are you going to discuss during your session at EDW14, and what will the audience gain from attending your talk? (Please be specific about one or two issues you’ll be addressing and the benefits the audience will obtain).

Daragh O Brien (DOB): In the tutorial I’m co-presenting with Joy Medved we’ll be exploring the challenges of keeping your Information quality and Data Governance initiative on the rails once you get past the initial “halo effect” of the first quick wins.

We’ll be looking at how you need to work both sides of the brain (rational data-data driven and deeper emotional triggers) to help your organization make smarter decisions about your data governance future and to avoid the risks that can come with hubris.

We’ll be looking at how best practices in metrics and emerging understanding of how we as people process risks, assess information, and make decisions need to work hand in hand to tackle the “Theory of Variation” and “Theory of Psychology” aspects of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge.

DV: What is really important about such a topic in terms of the current state of Data Management and / or how the industry going to transform moving into the future?

DOB: Data Governance and Information Quality change is a bit like hitting the gym to lose a few pounds or improve our fitness and performance. The drop off rates in change management activities like DG and IQ are eerily similar.

As the discipline matures and as our organisations are putting out the visible fires, or as we hit the equivalent of the marathon runner’s wall, we need to understand how to keep the discipline up and sustain our change!

DV: Please tell us a little about yourself and your history in the industry, past work experience, and how you got started in the data profession?

DOB: I studied business and law and wound up working part-time in a telco in the late 1990s while in University. In the telco I got assigned to the Business transformation program, and led strategic data driven change programs, including Single View of Customer and Information Quality. Then I moved to Regulatory Operations, which was actually just Information Quality and Data Governance by another name, but with a dash of Data Privacy thrown in.

Since 2005 I’ve been active in various professional associations and have served on the Board of the IAIDQ, as an advisor to DAMA, and as a participant in the Innovation Value Institute’s IT-CMF research.

DV: What is the biggest challenge happening in your particular area of Data Management at this time?

DOB: The biggest challenge is keeping the “data change” bus moving in the right direction when the initial quick wins are won and a dozen other people are trying to either grab the wheel to steer in different directions or, even worse, are trying to bail out the emergency exit at the back. Add to that the complication of external factors playing “Dennis Hopper in Speed” and requiring your bus to stay at 50 miles an hour and there is a lot going on if you want to keep everyone on the bus happy and going in the same direction!

DV: How is such a change influencing your job?

DOB: I spend a lot of time with clients who think they have a data privacy compliance problem moving them to understand their holistic “Data Governance/Quality” problem that is having a negative privacy outcome.

I’m spending less time working on technology challenges and more time working with the fun challenge of reprogramming people and how they think about data and information.

DV: How have your job, and / or the work you are doing at your organization, altered in the past 12 months? How do you expect it will change in the next 1-2 years?

DOB: In the past 12 months we have been doing a lot more work with organisations working on improving the Business/ IT collaboration to ensure that the capability to meet emerging regulatory requirements is improved and developing internal capabilities to do the governance and management of information, even as operation of technology is being outsourced.

Over the next 2 years I think there will be a lot more focus on management skills for information and the collaboration approaches that are necessary to deliver sustainable structures to support a range of outcomes from information.

DV: Are there any other emerging technologies you predict will affect your job function in the future?

DOB: Life logging, internet of things, increased use of mobile devices, new technologies for engaging with customers, all of these pose challenges. Machine learning algorithms to automate the analysis of data is an interesting area (and one that poses horrendous quality and privacy risks).

But in terms of what we do as Information Quality/Governance/Privacy professionals, I think that the real emerging technology that will affect what we do is the research that is being done into management styles for sustainable change management.

I think we need to fall out of love with technology, and fall in love with data, information, and sustainable delivery of valued and valuable outcomes from the use of data.

DV: What’s your favorite “Data” or “Data Management” quote?

DOB: There are many. And many of my favourites are unrepeatable either due to NDAs or simply good taste.

But Gorden Gekko, for all his faults, was right:

The most valuable commodity I know of is information.

DV: How do you explain what you do for work, at a cocktail party, or to your grandparents?

DOB: It depends. Sometimes I’ll just fall back on that classic John Cusack line from Grosse Pointe Blank when he’s at his high school reunion.

But usually I tell people I’m in the business of changing how people in organisations think about information and data so they put in place proper methods, tools, and technologies to deliver the right outcomes for their organization, their customers, and for society.


If you are interested in attending Daragh’s sessions at EDW2014, please see the conference schedule at:

His first session is on Monday, April 28th at 5.00pm and his second session is on Thursday, May 1st at 1.15pm.

About Enterprise Data World:
Enterprise Data World is the business world’s most comprehensive educational event about data and information management. Over five days, EDW presents a diverse schedule of programming that addresses every level of proficiency, including keynotes, workshops, tutorials, case studies, and discussions.

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