The Data Management "A-Team"



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
  • Comments

    Jim Harris said…
    I love it when a great blog post comes together!

    I too was a huge fan of "The A-Team" and simply can not imagine the new movie doing it any justice. To take it up another notch on the geek-o-meter, my friends and I loved that show so much, we used the character names as nicknames for each other. I was "Howling Mad" Murdock (that just makes sense, doesn't it?).

    I have spent most of my professional career as a consultant and member of "The DQ-Team" of contractors hired by companies for help with their initiatives, in part because like you said, they didn't have a data management/governance/quality group in house.

    I agree with your high-level characteristics for building the in-house data management "A-Team" - but I would add a business analyst type role, someone who knows how to talk "business-speak" and can help the group communicate well with stakeholders, i.e., the "Faceman" of the group.

    And most important, never forget the sage words of my favorite character:

    "I'm a bird! I'm a plane! I'm a choo-choo train!"
    kenoconnordata said…
    Clearly, we are of the same vintage - I watched the A-team as a kid and loved every minute of it.

    Like Jim, I'm a "Ghost buster" type, drafted in to help organisations root out data skeletons causing chaos in the information closet.

    Your team make up looks right - again I would agree with Jim, you need a "Face" to act as go-between to smooth the waves between the business and IT folks.

    I enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

    Ken
    Hey youngsters. When I was a kid the American television show to watch was McCloud. One man on his horse fighting all the bad guys in a modern chaotic city.
    Rich said…
    Thank you very much guys for your comments, yes, a FACE-Man was a key missing component from my list. Best to all...Rich