NOV 23, 2010 3:18pm ET

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Passion For ... Data


I get pinged with a lot of opinions about data and information from entrenched personalities who have been around our business a long time. I also hear from newer voices with newer ideas. Most all of them are very smart. Some are engaging, a few are eccentric and still others are inexplicably defensive even as they ask for a meeting. But pretty much all of them are passionate about data.
We need all these people because data isn't a riveting subject to your average man on the street. Only certain persons see adventure where most see ones, zeros, flat files and drudgery. And we could all use some inspiration to raise it up a notch and hope another generation will follow these footsteps rather than the latest round of pop culture. 

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Comments (8)
Having trained as a scientist, then mid-career transfer to data architecture (no regrets) I share some of Ms. Stover's perspectives. I am struck by the lack of rigor and discipline in IT compared to chemistry and physics. Information community foundations are governed by technology vendors with understandably commercial interests rather than the objective academic community. Even the IT name implies information is a subordinate adjective to the central noun technology. The early work of Codd and Date that represented data in terms of relational calculus was a ground breaking first step. I am startled how little that perspective has matured over 30 years. When I read articles like "How to Show the Value of Data Modeling to Management", I just want to say "REALLY?". "Maybe we can discuss the Phlogiston Theory of fire after that." As critical as data/information/knowledge are to today's economy/national security/quality of life, it's frustrating to see how slowly information science is understood and adopted compared to the dizzying pace of technology.
Posted by Bob C | Wednesday, November 24 2010 at 10:47AM ET
There is a reference contained in this article that goes back to observations made by the author in March 2009. Those observations are relevant today. But, rather than "suspend my disbelief," that success is elusive as Jim suggested in 2009 and press on, I prefer to share my observation on achieving success and suggest a strategy for achievement.

My 25 years of experience tells me that a passion for data is something that we technologists enjoy. A passion for extracting knowledge from data is what the business enjoys. Back in 2009, Jim suggested that reacting to the same old messages of business alignment, quality data, and silos of data were not enough. I suggest that these are all symptoms of a business that does not have a passion for deriving knowledge from data.

I have seen many projects with brilliant technology fail even when the technologists were passionate about the data. I have also seen failures on projects where the business had a passion for knowledge but no understanding of data. I have rarely seen projects fail where the business had a passion for knowledge and an understanding of data. I have never seen a project fail when the business leader saw the data and knowledge about the business as one and the same.

My hypothesis is as follows: (1)the marriage of a passionate technologist with a passionate business leader has a 50-50 chance of success, (2)teaching a technologist with a passion for data about the business has a less than 50% chance of success, (3)teaching a brilliant business strategist about information management has a better than 50% chance of success, and (4)instilling a passion for data in a passionate business leader has a 100% chance for success.

So what is the strategy for success? Hitching your wagon to the right business leader may never happen because you may never find one. I learned somewhere along the way that when considering problems with uncertain outcomes the best strategy is to invest your money on the items that eliminate the most uncertainty. Invest the time to make business leaders "information aware" and if you are lucky, passionate about it.

Posted by Tom K | Wednesday, November 24 2010 at 11:01AM ET
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