Data Management? Take it with a bit of Philosophy

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Of one thing rest assured, I am not a fan of those posts that offer a numbered list of advises, you know, those “7 ways to double your salary”, “9 things you should never say in the boardroom”, “5 action to become CEO’s in one month” etc….

By: Roberto Maranca,

Nevertheless, without numbering them and thanks to my scholastic background, below I am offering a data scented quotes from famous philosophers of the past, because I believe that the quest for “good data” (feel free to give to the “good” whatever interpretation makes you content) is ultimately a quest for truth, and in the midst of the chaos that sometimes is surrounding us, I find refuge in the collective wisdom matured in centuries of trying to answer life’s fundamental questions. Here we go…


Know thyself (Socrates)

My beloved mantra and foundation of everything, if you don’t know what company yours is like, how agile and resilient it is or pretends to be, who your people are, where your data  is and how good it is: then managing, changing, protecting, representing data will always be fraught with unpredictability at best and danger at worst. Change is creating a continuous moving target, pulling the carpet under your feet,  but I believe that if you zoom out of the chaotic stream of changes affecting your environment every day, you should be able to recognise patterns stable enough to help in your journey.

Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? (Marcus Aurelius)

Or rather “to call a spade a spade”, asking the powerful questions and being “objective”, avoiding subjective interpretations or, even, not being afraid to point out that the emperor had had a wardrobe malfunction, is an mental skill close to meditation, and exactly like that has to be cultivated and practiced. Beware: it might not make you popular, but it is the solid basis you need to build a successful data strategy, so dress it well with the best tact and diplomacy, but be relentless.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication (Leonardo Da Vinci). 

How many times someone has come to you and, waving the bedazzling flag of “simplification”, peeled down to nothing a decently working process/idea/project? Simplification is important and plays a pivotal role in data management, but like every change it requires accurate design, and given that it is demonstrated that it is much easier to be complex than it is to be simple (maybe entropy is the culprit here), one should not expect that simplifying requires less effort. E=mc2 is an incredibly simple and elegant formula, but it is the epitome of a lifetime of studies.

Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust (Sun Tzu). 

Ok, maybe not strictly speaking a philosopher, but he is one of my favourites. In my old days as a Six Sigma convert, I would have bored you with the “Sigma Shift” effect, meaning that old habits, like dandelion, are difficult to eradicate completely and if you don’t take care of them properly embedding, controlling and supporting whatever change you implemented. Thus a data governance process or a set of quality procedures or the task list for your newly appointed Data Stewards, no matter how good and slick the design was, fatigue and old habits will always deteriorate the quality of your solution. So govern! Governance is the sharpening stone of your strategy.

Be a philosopher! But, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man! (David Hume).

I will stop you right there! David Hume was born 304 years ago, so the “man” in his words is not chauvinism, but rather a collective noun meaning “human being”: to me it clearly resonates with the fact that the critical piece of the puzzle you need to put in all your frameworks, policies and procedure is the one related to the true subject of all our theories: the human being! If I can spell “ontology” but I can’t connect with people and help them to do their job better, well, I should probably be doing something else.

Roberto Maranca recently spoke at our annual Enterprise Data and BI Conference 2015 on Implementing Strategies to Make Enterprise Data Management Cohesive Within the Enterprise. Roberto has been an Enterprise Data Leader since 2014, overlooking the implementation of Data Governance and Quality framework for GE Capital International, comprising of more than 20 countries, with a total workforce of 25k FTE’s.  For GE Capital EMEA entity in 2009 he had the role of IT Governance Risk and Compliance Leader, responsible for IT Governance, IT Finance and PMO, Vendor Management, Business Intelligence and Quality Assurance.  Previously he worked for GE Fleet Europe and GE Leverage Finance, a London based corporate finance start-up, with the goal of setting up the IT shop in a regulated business.  He has also worked at Nissan and for Ford in Rome as country IT Lead.   Roberto attended the University of Naples and graduated as an aeronautical engineer.

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