Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for IS Research
Dr. Barb Wixom is a Principal Research Scientist at the Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management Center for IS Research (CISR). Dr. Wixom directs and conducts academic research that targets the challenges of senior level executives. Her research focuses on how organizations effectively generate value using data assets.
Prior to CISR, Dr. Wixom was a tenured faculty member at the University of Virginia’s (UVA) McIntire School of Commerce for fifteen years where she taught courses in data management and business analytics. Dr. Wixom is a two-time recipient of the UVA All-University Teaching Award (2002, 2010), which recognizes professors’ teaching excellence and particularly those professors who inspire and motivate students. This honor is especially meaningful to Dr. Wixom because she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia.
Since the mid-90’s, Dr. Wixom has explored data warehousing, business intelligence, business analytics, big data, and AI. Her research ranges from large-scale surveys to in-depth case studies, and five of her cases have placed in the Society for Information Management Paper Awards competition: First American Corporation (1999), Owens and Minor (2000), Continental Airlines (2004), Sprint (2008) and BBVA (2018). Dr. Wixom is a leading academic scholar, publishing in such journals as Information Systems Research; Sloan Management Review; MIS Quarterly; MIS Quarterly Executive; and Journal of MIS, and she has presented her work at national and international conferences.
What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?
My doctoral advisor Dr. Hugh Watson introduced me to data warehousing during my graduate studies. I was struck by how a few organizations transformed and succeeded using data, but most did not. I became passionate about helping leaders do a better job with creating value from their data assets – something I now call data monetization.
What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?
For 27 years, helping my students – undergraduates, graduates, executives, IT, non-IT, in-person, on-line – become excited about data monetization and become better at it. I am humbled by the many, many people who are connected with me through teaching.
What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?
- Defining data monetization narrowly – such as the selling of data sets – and missing out on value creation opportunities. I now teach my framework of data monetization = improving, wrapping and selling to help broaden perspectives.
- Investing and building enterprise capabilities for the long-term instead of assembling short-term project-specific needs. My research offers evidence that the long-term view pays off!
- Convincing people that you become great at data by not focusing on data. This is why I always keep my focus on data monetization. The rest will come…
How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the
next 2 – 3 years?
More and different data sharing across companies… Greater reliance on data to drive top-line revenues… Elevation of the Chief Data Officer into the top management team…
Do you have any planned next steps for your career?
I expect to help people better create value using their data for another 27 years…!
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?
My best piece of advice was to enjoy the wins, big and small. Too often, we achieve goals but then move onto the next ambition without appreciating what we accomplished. Since that advice, I always pause and appreciate with a shared drink, a special dinner… even a party if the success is a big one!
Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?
I helped establish the Teradata University with Hugh Watson and Jeff Hoffer back in 1998. We envisioned a vendor consortium that would offer free software and resources to instructors around the globe so that university students could learn database using real, contemporary tools. The initiative filled a huge gap for years and years – back when enterprise database software was too expensive and difficult for a university to maintain on its own. What I loved most was that the initiative demonstrated how magic happened from academia and practice working together. Because of the resource, teachers around the world taught better, students learned better, employers got better hires, and vendors developed future markets for their offerings. It was a win-win-win-win!
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