Friday, April 1, 2016

The Data Management "A-Team"

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Way back when I was young and impressionable, I loved watching this TV show called "The A-Team". The show started out with what I thought was a very cool quote by an unseen narrator: "In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team."

So, here I am all these years later, completely living in the dark because while again watching TV (guess I watch too much TV) I see a commercial for a "new" A-Team movie. Like all things in this world, some people will like the new rendition and others will have wished "they" left well enough alone, but you can't make everyone happy.

On the data management side, what we're seeing in industry is very much like the story lines in the original "A-Team" TV shows. Many organizations large and small are suffering because they do not have a data management/governance/quality group in house. For those organizations that do have a group responsible for the health and welfare of data, the teams are typically very small and "A-Team"-ish. [Note: For this posting "A-Team"-ish is being defined as just a handful of folks trying to take on the world and solve problems.] We have seen some organizations without a data management/governance/quality group succeed and not suffer, this is due to having good data practices engrained in their corporate culture throughout the organization. Most other organizations who have not established data management groups will suffer due to their lack of attention on their data. These shops who suffer will on occasion try to hire a contractor (or two, or twelve) type of person(or people) to come in and address data issues when things get bad. These short term engagements typically accomplish the single task at hand but don't come with the long lasting benefits of having an "A-Team" on staff.

What should your data management "A-Team" look like? It depends, but I'd go with the following. 
- A leader/manager to provide direction and prioritization
- A technical lead or data architect, perhaps a DBA or Software Developer who's ready for something new to do, but they must "get data"
- Two or three data analysts: folks who love SQL, are super-detail-oriented and love a challenge

If you're at a large shop, I'd recommend building sets of these groups, as a small "A-Team" can accomplish extraordinary things – kind of like "rinse and repeat" if that makes any sense. As always, executive support is a must, but that's another story in itself which we'll discuss in a different post.

Do you have a data management "A-Team"? If so what does it look like?

Until next time…Rich

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