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Foundations of Data Management Professional Development

Foundations of Data Management Professional Development

Continuing Professional Development is important in every data management person’s career, since it enables life-long learning, offers opportunities for growth in skills and knowledge, and contributes to personal satisfaction.

In any profession, the term professional development may be used about a wide variety of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning intended to help an individual improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness.  Continuing professional development is important because it ensures that the individual maintains competency in their profession.  It is a career-long process and obligation with several components, especially in data management.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) usually refers to the process of designing, executing, tracking, and documenting the skills, knowledge, and experience that one gains, both formally and informally in a work environment beyond any initial education or training.  CPD can be based around a portfolio that documents an individual’s development as a professional and may include a training or development plan with specific activities that will demonstrate a progressive increase in skills, knowledge, and capabilities in a profession or function.

Benefits of Continuing Professional Development

Continuing professional development is important because it delivers benefits to the individual, the data management profession, and the organizations for which the individual works.

  1. Build the individual’s confidence and credibility within the data management field and its domains
  2. Degrees, data management certificates, and other tangible representations become assets to show at employee appraisals
  3. All documented Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities become support material for promotion
  4. Continuing Professional Development can focus and direct the individual in achieving career goals
  5. Continuing Professional Development enables regular advancement of knowledge and skills within current role
  6. Continuing Professional Development improves productivity and efficiency within the workplace for the individual, the team, and the organization through increased focus on learning and knowledge sharing

Employers benefit from a continuing professional development program in many ways.  Some of them include:

  1. Supporting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities can increase motivation and retention
  2. Supporting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities can improve job performance
  3. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities can be integrated into performance management and other human resources programs for employee evaluation
  4. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs can encourage individuals to assume responsibility for their professional development management
  5. Adopting a formal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program assists the organization in recruiting highly motivated and superior candidates for available positions

Challenges to Continuing Professional Development

Despite the many and varied benefits of Continuing Professional Development to the individual and to the data management profession, there are challenges and barriers to CPD.  Some of them would include:

  1. Individual’s motivation for pursuing Continuing Professional Development once they have a full-time position
  2. Lack of understanding by individuals of the tangible, demonstrated value of Continuing Professional Development to their current position and to their immediate advancement
  3. Lack of understanding of the available Continuing Professional Development resources in the data management field, including vendor and non-vendor / industry standard certifications and their professional value
  4. Lack of understanding of the available informal Continuing Professional Development activities in the data management field (and in the domains), such as focused conferences, seminars, webinars, online curated newsletters and journals, and access to them
  5. Perceived, or actual, lack of time to pursue Continuing Professional Development activities due to current job pressures and / or lack of support from organization management for CPD
  6. Lack of support in preparing a Continuing Professional Development plan and guidance on its execution
  7. Lack of organizational resources, both in line management and in support areas such as human resources, to assist in Continuing Professional Development activities, especially with data management professionals

Categories of Continuing Professional Development

Generally, organizations that study Continuing Professional Development identify four or five categories that individuals and their management use when designing CPD plans.  Examples for each category could include, but would not be limited to:

  1. Work-based learning
  • Receiving coaching from others and providing coaching to others as appropriate
  • Shadowing positions to which the individual aspires or in which there is an interest (e.g., higher level or a different branch of data management)
  • Peer review of own work, including presentations to colleagues
  • Review of case studies and literature in the field, written and examined by peers and / or management
  • Presentations to external contacts in performance of current position
  • Supervising colleagues or interns as part of current position
  • Position rotation, temporary placement in another organization for professional development
  • Assuming wider scope in current role, with documented activities
  • Participating in and leading lessons-learned activities following significant projects, events
  • Requesting and analyzing feedback on performance from colleagues, clients
  • Participating in the employer’s performance appraisal and goal setting process

2. Professional activities

  • Membership in and active participation with a data management professional organization
  • Involvement in the management of a data management professional body – officer, organizer, committee member, working group member
  • Organizing a conference, professional organization’s meeting, or other event
  • Article author to professional journal
  • Journal referee, associate editor, or editor
  • Research assistant or supervisor for data management focused study
  • Active continuing membership in a technical expert group (e.g. special interest group or study group)
  • Serving as an expert witness in a data management investigation
  • Developing and delivering courses as an instructor in any area of data management
  • Giving presentations or being a panelist at conferences or professional events in data management
  • Coaching or mentoring less-advanced data management professionals

3. Formal education and certification

  • Completing formal data management training courses in one or more areas of the data management
  • Completing vendor training for data management technologies
  • Earning a degree in data management oriented program with an accredited university (onsite or online)
  • Earning and maintaining a data management certification, vendor or non-vendor (e.g., Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, etc.)
  • Earning and maintaining an industry-based certification (e.g., insurance data management, healthcare, financial services, etc.)
  • Earning and maintaining a complementary certification (e.g., business analysis, project management, etc.)

4. Self-directed learning

  • Reading data management books, journals and articles from recommendations from thought leaders
  • Reviewing and summarizing data management books, journals and articles, and distributing reviews to colleagues for discussion
  • Enhancing knowledge and understanding of data management and its components through focused internet searches and the use of valid, appropriate electronic information sources; documenting results and sharing them with colleagues for discussion
  • Forming, leading, participating in informal study groups concerning data management topics and documenting discussions
  • Continued refinement of professional development plan and assessment of personal goals, achievements, challenges, and next steps

5. General Professional Development

  • Project management skills for employer or for external entities
  • Leadership skills (e.g. chairperson for a club or society)
  • Organization and planning skills (officer for an external club or society, activity director)
  • Finance skills (e.g. treasurer for an external club or society)
  • Coaching and counseling skills (e.g. coach, volunteer work, mentoring, tutoring) 

General Steps in the Continuing Professional Development Process

Although each individual and organization may approach the CPD process slightly differently, there are three major steps to successful Continuing Professional Development:

Step 1: Identify CPD goals, assess capability and plan learning

The individual should identify their goals for Continuing Professional Development, assess their current skills and capabilities so they can understand their development needs, and identify the appropriate activities’ categories and determine how they will measure progress toward each goal.

Step 2: Identify activities, acquire skills and knowledge

Once the individual (and management) understands the development goals, identify the specific activities that will meet each goal.  The activities should be relevant to the goals and offer clear benefits.  Some activities will provide benefits for multiple goals.  Choose the order in which each activity will be performed and completed, with deadlines, milestones, and appropriate documentation noted.  Many activities will be continuing; in these cases, there will be periodic milestones in lieu of a final deadline.

Step 3: Apply and evaluate

This final stage of the cycle focuses on the outcome of each activity and its success in meeting the individual’s development goals.  It is important to evaluate the outcome by providing a description of the learning achieved or by identifying the skills developed.  The cycle can begin again with new goals, refinement of existing goals, or continuation of permanent goals – as needed.


Every data management professional, at every stage of their career, should be engaged in continuing professional development.  Doing so will provide personal benefits, contributions to their organization, and support to the data management community.


Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D.

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise data management, data governance, data strategy, enterprise data architecture and data warehousing. Dr. Smith is a consultant and educator with over 30 years' experience. Author of numerous articles and Fellow of the Insurance Data Management Association (FIDM), and a Fellow of the Institute for Information Management (IIM), Dr. Smith is also a well-known speaker in her areas of expertise at conferences and symposia.

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