Affiliated with:

Dr. Thomas C. Redman

“Management, not technology is the solution.”

I help leaders and companies understand their most important issues and opportunities in the data space, chart a course and build the organizational capabilities they need to execute.  I do my best to combine a visionary’s perspective on the data landscape with deep expertise in data science and data quality.

Most companies don’t give data quality its due, but bad data is extremely costly and makes it more difficult to do anything with data. I help companies attack data quality head-on, using new approaches, managerial responsibilities, and techniques. Similarly, most companies don’t understand how difficult it is to succeed with data science. I help them see the big picture and get the right focus, leadership, structure, and people in place.

I’ve been fortunate enough to develop important insights into the nature of data in organizations and to sort out what it means to treat data as assets.  Recently, I’ve come to see the need to get “regular people,” those without data in their title involved.  Great things follow when that happens!

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

I think it would be more accurate to say, “data management chose me,” rather than I chose it.  I was at Bell Labs, searching for ways to improve network performance.  I wanted to use control charts to do so but couldn’t find a sponsor for the work.  Then one day an executive called to ask me if control charts would help on some billing issues he had.  I had no idea, but we launched a project and surprise, they could.  This led to the Data Quality Lab, with one foot in enormous AT&T problems and the other in a lab.  Great stuff!

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

“Greatest” is for others to judge, so I can’t answer.  But I know I am most proud of having helped so many people switch on to data and data quality, take charge of their careers, and make great things happen for their companies.

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

Some years ago, I would have said, “indifference.”  So many people casually cite, GIGO-garbage in, garbage out, then ignore the impact on their businesses.  Similarly, the failure rate of data science projects is way too high. 

Now today, there is still plenty of indifference out there, but fear has replaced much indifference.  And fear freezes people and organizations. 

Lastly, is a lack of imagination.  Companies can do way better with both data quality and data science.  But they must make some rather fundamental changes.  And too many are locked into things that look good on paper, but don’t work.

One of my roles is helping people and organizations see opportunity, conquer their fears, and sort out how to make things work.  We almost always figure out simpler, more powerful, more inclusive ways to attack data.

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

From my perspective, it is time for data management to grow up.  As one example, I’ve heard people talk about “getting close to the business” for my entire career.  But few do so.  And frankly, it is just not that hard.

Another example.  We’ve known for 20 years that data and IT are different sorts of assets that need to be managed separately.   Yet so many companies still have data reporting into IT.  

With this stasis, I’d be hard-pressed to predict much change across the profession.  But I do predict that those who attack data quality, get everyone involved, spend more time on small data, and sort out how to work across silos will do way better than those who do not.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

I’m spending way less time working on the “how,” as in how we do the work, and more on the “who” as in who do we organize for data.  Look, everyone touches data and should be clear on what is expected.

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?

Learn to communicate better.   Clearly, better communication means people listen more.  A bit more subtly, part of communication involves simplifying the message to its essential core.  And simple is better!

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

Hmmm, not really.  I’m pretty boring—love my wife, kids, and grandkids; show up ready to work each morning, and do my best.  That’s about it.

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