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Eddie Sayer

Eddie Sayer

Sr. Director & Principal Consultant | CDO | Data Architecture | Data Strategy | Enterprise Architecture | Data Governance | Data Management | Advanced Analytics | DQ | MDM | EDW | Data Monetization | Servant Leader

Eddie is an acclaimed data and analytics expert with a proven track record of helping organizations gain sustainable competitive advantage with data. He has worked in both leadership and individual contributor roles, specializing in information management, data architecture, advanced analytics, enterprise architecture, and capabilities such as data governance & stewardship, data quality (DQ), metadata management, data integration, data security & privacy and master data management (MDM). He is an acclaimed thought leader, having been named a global top influencer in Data Management by Onalytica during 2021.

Eddie has worked with some of the most recognized brands in the world helping to assess, plan, and implement industry leading data ecosystems.

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

I am naturally curious and love to understand how things work.  In my first IT job at Macys, I was fascinated by the retail business and the underlying business processes – supply chain management, merchandising, assortment planning, logistics, and so forth.  I quickly learned data was at the heart of every business process.  The data contained business rules, performance indicators, trends and patterns, demographics, and even predictive capabilities.  I was instantly hooked on data.  The more I sought to holistically understand the data – its design, how it was used, who/what used it, what it meant, its relationships, and even its flaws – the more I formed an understanding of how the business works, and I separated myself from the IT pack.  I have been drawn to the intersection of business and data ever since.

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

The accomplishments I’m most proud of are the “firsts” because they laid the foundation for future success.  My first MDM project afforded a cross-divisional view of products and vendors, allowing Macys to take advantage of tremendous economies of scale, improve purchasing power, renegotiate vendor agreements, increase margin, and better manage the supply chain.  My first DQ project saved millions of dollars in cost of poor quality (COPQ) of billing and payment incidents and taught me valuable lessons about the business impacts of missing data, broken FK associations, data length discrepancies, and obsolete reference data.  My first consulting engagement instilled in me the confidence to expand my comfort zone and become a “front of the room” leader.  My first public speaking opportunity convinced me I have a talent for connecting with large audiences and imparting knowledge.  My greatest career accomplishments are those that have challenged me to grow professionally while also making positive impacts to the businesses, organizations, and persons I am working with.

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

The most fundamental challenge is educating professionals on the right and wrong reasons for investing in Enterprise Data Management (EDM).  There is only one good reason to invest in EDM, and that is business enablement.  The question you must ask yourself is what is the lack of EDM preventing your business from accomplishing?  Or what in your business is at risk without EDM?  If there is a strategic business initiative to decrease customer churn, but accurate churn analytics can’t be performed due to poor-quality data, then guess what?  That is a great reason for implementing EDM, because it directly supports a key business initiative and will provide business ROI.

On the other hand, many organizations go wrong by investing in EDM simply because it is considered best practice, or it seems the right thing to do, or it came up as an inadequacy in a maturity assessment.  Without tying EDM to business initiatives, there exists limited opportunity to provide ROI, and the EDM program eventually fizzles out.  Business enablement is the fuel that drives EDM, and with no fuel, the engine doesn’t run.

Another big challenge is getting people to think beyond technology and embrace the heavier lifts around process improvement, change management, and cultural evolution.  Data management is not merely a technology problem.  For example, there is an abundance of data virtualization tools in the marketplace aimed at breaking down data silos by “virtually integrating” disparate data.  These are wonderful technologies, but they require harmonized metadata, unified data models, and common keys to link data across heterogeneous environments.  The technologies work best when there is data architecture maturity and process excellence to address the enterprise-level requirements.

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

The market demand for CDOs and data management professionals will outpace supply over the next few years.  With the exponential growth in data volume and new data types, along with the proliferation of cloud architectures, object storage and analytic tools, data is omnipresent.  Mature organizations realize the data won’t manage itself.  Without adequate attention to data management, compliance with regulatory practices is prohibitive.  Technology costs and complexity are excessive.  Businesses have less confidence in the quality of the data and the decisions based on the data.  This is especially true as AI/ML becomes more mainstream, and the effects of poor data quality surface in analytic models.  The role of the CDO is no longer optional.  Rather, the CDO is critical to leveraging data for business value and mitigating risk.  There has never been a better time to be a data management professional.

With the growing shortage of data management professionals, we will also see a merger of AI/ML and data management capabilities to help bridge the talent gap.  There will be increased integration of AI capabilities into data management tools to automate inferences of metadata, schemas, relationships, linkages, DQ issues, data mapping, metadata, classification schemes, and monitoring of data.  And with greater sophistication of data management capabilities, we will finally see data scientists focusing less on data preparation and more on analytics.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career? 

I subscribe to this quote by Henry David Thoreau: “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”  I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my own career progression.  Instead, I focus on current responsibilities, working with great people on interesting projects, and continuously learning new things.  This approach has served me well over the years, leading to an enviable reputation while working in various roles of increasing responsibility and career advancement.  Having said that, I plan to keep leading the way in the disciplines of data management, data architecture, advanced analytics, and enterprise architecture in a strategic capacity for the foreseeable future.

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?

It wasn’t advice but rather a question.  “How does this help me sell more shirts?”  As a young programmer, I was demonstrating a new product management application to a group of merchandisers.  We had ported the code base from a mainframe-based CICS application to a 3-tiered application using some slick new technology.  We had modernized the architecture, bringing it in alignment with industry best practices.  But we added no new business functionality.  We enabled no new reporting.  We provided no new business insights.  When I was asked this question, it was a career-changing moment that helped me see the bigger picture.  Many business leaders view IT as being out of touch with the business and pursuing new technologies without regard to business ROI, which leads to a widening of the business-IT divide.  Simply put, technology only matters to the extent it is serving a business purpose.  This lesson has stuck with me my entire career.

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

While pursuing my undergraduate degree in college, I changed majors at least three times.  None of them were in Computer Science.  I started as a music major and later switched to finance after having nightmares about my future as a struggling musician.  I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management.  Care to guess how many HR jobs I’ve had?  Zero.  Immediately after graduation, I took part in a university new hire program where I learned programming and systems analysis, embarking upon my journey into the world of data and analytics.

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