As an expert in helping businesses whip their data into shape with big data and analytics techniques, I often find that obese databases are an early obstacle to overcome. While tackling this common challenge, I started to think in terms of data health and I realized that something else was obese: me. That’s right, while preaching the benefits of slimmed-down data, my own weight had ballooned to an unhealthy level. So I decided to take my own advice and practice what I preached, working on myself while I worked on my clients’ businesses. There were a lot of parallels:

Data calories & the wake-up call

First, you realize that you let time get the best of you as, each year, you found yourself weighing a couple more pounds. Same story with data calories. Each year, you found yourself having a few more databases than the year before, whether from pursuing a deadline or a result of a few acquisitions. 

Suddenly, you realize that you are obese. Your weight has gone out of control; you move slower and take longer to perform simple tasks.  In much the same way, you also discover that you are data-obese. The number of data stores around you has gotten out of control. Your business is slower to respond and even the simplest reports take a long time to produce

The thought of participating in the next 5K corporate challenge is daunting. You move too slowly and are in no shape to compete. You feel it on the data side, too. The next business opportunity is hard to win. You are too slow to react to market conditions compared to your competition.

In both cases, you decide that enough is enough.

Article author and big data expert Avi Kalderon -- before and after.

Chief data officer = chief diet officer?

You make a life-changing decision and hire a personal trainer, like your own chief diet officer.

In business, you make a strategic decision and hire a chief data officer (CDO) who puts your organization on a data diet.

The personal trainer is your coach who holds you accountable to diet and exercise, teaching you about nutrition; quality food groups; how to adopt new habits. The chief data officer takes a hard look at your data and lays out a route to success, teaching you and your organization about principles for good data: how to manage data through quality and governance.

In much the same way as the personal trainer goes through your refrigerator and throws away all the foods that are bad for you, the chief data officer goes through your data footprint and marks all the databases that need to be retired over time -- all the data sources that do not provide quality information to the organization.  From now on, there is a process in place to measure and manage quality of information.

Stand up and be accountable

It’s time to sign up at the gym. It’s also time to update your technology. A good data strategy program requires managing data as well as the right tools to measure and effect change in how the organization processes and analyzes data with this diet.

Your personal trainer makes you track your meals and exercise. Your CDO holds your organization accountable by providing a framework for measuring quality of information and adherence to a data-driven architecture.  Your database footprint has started to reduce while at the same time trust in data increases.

Invest, work hard and witness success

Now you are surprised to find yourself buying a treadmill and dumbbells. It’s time to invest in new database technology, too.  You didn't think you needed it, but new technologies and tools are essential to keep up..

Success breeds success and before you know it, you’re signed up for the upcoming corporate challenge race.  Meanwhile, in IT after a few months, your proof of concepts bear fruit and your information flow gradually accelerates. Suddenly, you are able to make business decisions that are timely and win more deals.

Diet: You feel better, you are more nimble and certainly faster.  Friends and colleagues notice.

Data: You generate better results. Your business is more agile. Your investors and board certainly notice.

Making a lifestyle change

Keeping your weight down is a lifestyle change, not a diet with a beginning and an end; you will need your trainer’s guidance and the tools you acquired to keep your health and agility in top shape. Same deal with data. You realize that data is how you manage your business as an ongoing process. You will need your CDO’s ongoing assistance and the technology that supports the organization to keep your data health and agility in the best shape possible.

Bottom line? I lost over 100 pounds, feel much better and got a fresh outlook on life. Meanwhile, I’ve seen the results that businesses can get from a data diet -- ready to handle the challenges of big data, then earn the profits it offers, whether faster time-to-market, decreased operational costs or both.

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