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Dr. William M. Parsley

Dr. William M. Parsley

Data Management and Data Governance Leader | Data Quality | CDO

Data Management leader with expertise in data governance, data quality, master and reference data management, analytics, and data management maturity models. Ability to define, lead, and manage projects in enterprise environments. Inquisitive and driven, with the ability to define business problems and innovate solutions. People and relationship-focused with a passion for community service.

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

After obtaining my undergraduate degree in political science, I worked on a few campaigns and in congressional offices where I started to see the growing impact of data in the 2000s. I was exposed to early data practices such as data mining and data quality as we sought to perform data scraping operations to understand constituents’ sentiment. This opened my eyes to the possibilities of what data could “be” and I knew quickly that I was out of my depth. With that in mind, I explored graduate degree options at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock that had partnered with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to deliver data education and training that would prepare me for a career in this space.

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

The greatest accomplishment in my career has been that I’ve had the pleasure of working with such talented and driven individuals over my last decade in the data management world. Day in and day out my colleagues, co-workers, and often friends have helped drive our teams to success, overcome obstacles, and generally made this career one that I value and sincerely appreciate each day. I could name a handful of projects but those would be overshadowed by the hard work and dedication of the people that worked on them.

I think the one thing I’m most proud of has been working with students and new professionals entering the data field. Watching them attack and solve problems is such a rewarding experience and helps me remember what it means to see the “art of the possible”. The growth and development of talent relationships is something continuous to energize me even many years later.

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

Two of the key challenges faced at the data management leadership level include accountability and data literacy.

The keystone of my career has been the installation of data governance, and this practice is one that requires accountability across lines of business and the enterprise. One can have great communication plans, process maps, and background but it’s really about driving change influence and holding oneself (and the data community) accountable for change that makes a difference. That is one of the largest challenges I have ever faced and I decided to learn more about it each day. 

Data literacy is one of the key areas where we hope to drive this accountability. By helping others throughout the organization understand the impact data can have on their daily activities as well as the bottom line for the organization, it can help drive this change as well as empower data stewards and data owners.

Having leadership visibility and buy-in for activities around data management and governance is essential to ensuring long-term success. The development of KRI/KPIs, dashboards, and regular roadshows are all essential, but it is truly the leadership at the C-suite level that helps solidify change over time.

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

What I think will happen with the role of the Chief Data Officer and data management over the next few years can be summed up in two main topics: Cloud migration and drive for efficiency.

Organizations that seek to remain competitive with the growing scale of data types are seeing the cloud as the future for data management. This combination of technological approaches, architecture, and process can enable significant development and technological transformations, but brings with it a technical and logistical debt that must be addressed. I can’t tell you how many businesses in traditional market spaces have begun to call themselves “technology companies” and while this is exciting, each of those organizations has to understand that they are taking on a significant amount of work and requirements for talent that are hard to find and build into effective teams.

The drive for efficiency is a separate challenge that seeks to really uncover ways to streamline and capitalize economies of scale in the data management community. So many organizations struggle with legacy technologies while at the same time seeking to modernize – this simply is not tenable long-term for most organizations. It requires strategic guidance and leadership to turn over a new leaf and allow for data management practices to be installed in such a way that can drive change without burdening the company with overwhelming technological debt. This is a challenge that many organizations are facing, and I think it will continue to be a primary driver for the next 3 years.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

The next steps in my career are really around continuing to grow my leadership document and learn new technologies as the rate of change in my career field is accelerating even faster. Recently I had a wonderful opportunity to work on research around graph databases and ontologies to see how those can partner with Master Data Management and Data Governance. I saw this as the “next frontier” for how data management can grow and evolve.

In short, the next step I have is to continue to stay a lifetime learner and participate in growth opportunities that enable me to be a better leader and deliver more value.

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?

I think the best piece of advice that I’ve ever been given has been to “build relationships first”. No matter the project: whether it’s standing up a cloud environment, establishing data governance, or troubleshooting of a data quality issue; there is no obstacle I’ve ever faced that didn’t involve working with others to identify and solution an approach. By focusing on the relationships with others first it makes each phase of the problem-solving journey more effective and frankly easier for all involved.

Overall, this relates to my goal of leading with emotional intelligence. We never know what another person has experienced in their life, so I try to keep that in mind when a meeting goes awry or a project stalls. Maybe they had a bad morning in traffic, or something is going on with their family. I want to understand the person first, and then focus on the data second.  

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

I think something that people don’t often know about me is that I suffer from imposter syndrome just like many others. Even after years of school, multiple degrees, and years of experience in the data management field – some mornings I wake up and wonder,  “do I really know all this?”

This can be a bit of a mental puzzle, but one helpful technique I use to remind myself of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which states that the more knowledge a person has about any topic, the less they feel like they know, because they understand how much there is out there to know!

This helps, combined with a level of humor that I try to inject into meetings, to keep my days light and often refreshing.

Finally, I am an avid disc golfer and enjoy playing this semi-competitive, mostly friendly sport that is challenging but also relaxing.

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