Affiliated with:

Cengiz Barlas

Enterprise Data Management and Data Governance Leader

Cengiz is an executive leader in data management, data governance, analytics, information protection, regulatory compliance and information management strategy development and implementation. He has formulated and implemented data strategies across healthcare, financial services, retail, and market research industries. He is also a data governance pioneer where he has helped develop a data governance maturity model, self-assessment capability while contributing to books and speaking at global forums.

Throughout Cengiz’s career, his focus has always been on value creation through proper management of data assets that enable harnessing value through information, analytics, insights, and intelligence. He believes every organization needs mature data management, data governance, and analytics functions, with an innovative leader at the helm, to drive the transformation necessary to become a data and insights-driven organization. Helping organizations become data and analytics-driven and leading them through that journey has always been his passion.

What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?

I studied mathematics and computer science in college with the goal of becoming a computer programmer. After college, I started to work at the largest market research firm that pioneered many of the modern data management concepts, techniques, and technologies. I learned how data and analytics can propel a business, during my 11 years there as data, analytics, and insights was their “business”. As I moved to other companies and industries, I quickly realized how immature these companies and industries were as compared to my first experience at a mature organization. At that point, I realized that I could provide what I had learned to less mature organizations to propel their business outcomes by fully utilizing their data and analytic assets. That is when data and analytics management became a career for me.

What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?

I would have to put my greatest accomplishment on people I was able to coach, mentor, and grow into data management professionals. I am proud of all the people I was able to influence and touch over my career. To me, it is similar to watching your kids grow and become successful adults.  Many of these individuals have become data leaders and executives to “pass it forward.”  When I became a data management professional, there were no such degrees at universities. So, I felt, we had to be the “teachers” of our field. It makes me immensely proud to see the growth of data professionals, formal education/training, and the realization of the value we bring to organizations.

What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?

I have consistently faced 3 challenges at every organization:

  • Value realization
  • Organizational/executive buy-in
  • Culture

Each of these challenges have been somewhat different, but consistently present at each company I worked at.  I believe, we still have not adequately or quantifiably put a trusted value of data and analytics. I think, we must get much more scientific and predictable in the value we bring to organizations.  Secondly, turning data and analytics into a true asset to an organization requires organizational/executive commitment. Many organizations are not ready for such transformation. I believe, we must continue to do a great deal of education and advocacy to change many mindsets. Lastly, data management and analytics has a big dependency on the culture of an organization. This is tied somewhat to the second challenge, however, changing or influencing a culture to become data or insights driven is a big challenge for any CDO. Being a champion, a cheerleader, and a teacher are key to overcoming this challenge.

How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?

I believe data management/CDO roles will continue to grow across all industries. The rate of data growth, need to real-time insights/actions/decisions, AI, and other trends will continue to require more data professionals. However, I also see a need for data management/CDO professionals to improve their methods/skills as well. We must be more nimble, flexible, value-driven, business-orientated, and foster automation-first mentality to what we do every day. Otherwise, we will be challenged to meet our first objective: provide the right data, information, and insights to the business for the right business purposes at the right time.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

Yes, I do. I am considering making a change to management consulting to help organizations and executives with their data and analytics strategies.

What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far? Why has it been so important to you?

One simple one comes to mind: Data/insights that are not used have no value.

I always kept this advice in mind when I led data organizations. Something that is not used does not provide any value to an organization. So, it makes great sense to start with value, then how data needs to be used to provide that value, and what data is needed to enable that use.  I believe this value chain mentality has had a great impact on my success as a data professional.

Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?

My childhood dream was to become a fighter jet pilot (after seeing Top Gun, of course). But in high school, I grew to 6’4”, and fitting in an F16 cockpit was no longer possible for me.

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