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How to be a More Effective Data Management Professional – Part 1

Effective Data Management Priority Matrix

Effective Data Management begins and ends with the Data Management Professionals that run your Data Management Program.

If your Data Management team is ineffective, your Data Management Program as a whole will be ineffective.

If you feel like you’re an ineffective data management professional, and you want to fix this, read on…

Why are Data Management Professionals Ineffective?

Our research shows that 42% of firms appoint the wrong people for Data Management roles. 

Worse, having appointed the wrong people to Data Management roles, the Data Management team receives no training to learn what to do and how to do it.

How can you be expected to be an effective Data Management professional without training or experience to succeed?

Data Management hires are internal, largely from I.T. and given little or no training

This leads to a few negative outcomes for the program as a whole:

  1. Data Management Professionals lack business analysis skills, and struggle to gain the trust of the business; as a result:
  2. The Data Management Program focuses on areas within the control of I.T. not on areas that make real, lasting impact to the business; leading to:
  3. The business ignores data rules and policies from the Data Management team, eventually disbanding and de-funding the program

The end result is an ineffective data management program that spins its wheels and wastes time and money.

Increasing Data Management Effectiveness

How do you create an Effective Data Management program if you’ve been handed such a poisoned chalice to begin with? 

Be Proactive

First, focus your energy and attention on things that you can control. If you business won’t fund training, you will need to develop these skills yourself. 

Being Proactive rather than Reactive will help increase your chances of success. 

What can you control?

  1. Your schedule – stop acting as an order-taker for data, and start becoming a data leader
  2. Your priorities – unless you are making professional or personal progress, deprioritise the task
  3. Your knowledge – identify your strengths and weaknesses, then focus your time or personal training budget to improve key skills

How to Prioritise Your Time

Effective Data Management Priority Matrix

The image above is based on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech to the 1954 Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches. It was refined into a matrix by Steven Covey in his “7 habits of highly effective people” book. 

I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.

Using the Matrix

Here’s how you leverage the matrix above to improve your effectiveness:

It's on Fire

The most important quadrant is the “It’s on Fire” quadrant. Many Data Management Professionals spend far too long in this quadrant – fixing problems and patching up data debt their business has acquired over the years.

The problems here are Urgent – you need to fix them yesterday. 

These problems are also important – your career may depend on your successful resolution of these challenges. 

At the same time, spending too much time running around with your pants on fire prevents you from fixing other important problems that have less urgency. That’s where the second quadrant comes in:


Professional Goals

This quadrant is where you should aspire to spend the most time if you want to deliver effective data management.

These are Important tasks – developing a data strategy, understanding your business strategy, learning how to put a price on your data, designing an effective data management framework, etc. 

These are the things we keep putting off when we’re too focused on the “It’s on Fire” quadrant. 

Your data strategy should be built to support the business strategy – and this should act as a clear Lighthouse that is a beacon of what’s Important and what’s Unimportant.

Focusing more of your energy in this quadrant will help you become a more effective Data Management Professional.

Other People's Priorities

Many Data Management Professionals struggle to say no. 

In an attempt to curry favour with the business, requests for reports and analytics are often prioritised over Professional Priorities of the Data Management Program.

In order to overcome this, some people suggest “Self Service Analytics” – which we call the “just give them the data and hope they go away” approach.

Self-service analytics without the proper data governance, data management and data literacy foundations is a recipe for disaster. 

If you spend too much time in this quadrant, learn how to say NO to the business, and how to use Other People’s Priorities to get more funding, resources and assistance for your Professional Priorities.


These are both unimportant and non-urgent tasks.

Surfing the internet would be an example – rather than doing something proactive to improve your position, you do the easy, low-effort activities that achieve nothing but increase pressure on your schedule.

If you spend too long in the “It’s on Fire” or “Other People’s Priorities” quadrants, it’s likely that you’ll want to retreat into this space to blow off steam. 

Focus your attention on the Professional Goals quadrant and you’ll free up time and headspace, avoiding the need to retreat into the Time-wasting quadrant for a breather.

Becoming a more Effective Data Management Professional

How do you pull this together? Ask yourself:

  1. Do I really understand the priorities of the business?
  2. Do my daily tasks reflect the most important tasks to support my Professional Goals?
  3. Am I wasting too much time in meetings to solve Other People’s Priorities? 
  4. Do I feel confident and comfortable to firmly say “NO” to business demands when they are pulling us in the wrong direction?
  5. If I could do one thing in my professional work that I know would have enormously positive effects on the results, what would it be?
If you’ve honestly answered those questions, you will know whether your work is likely to have business impact or not. 

What next?

If you struggle to prioritise your tasks and you feel like you’re not making sufficient progress, get in touch.

We help Data Management Professionals increase their effectiveness, through training and direct advisory services. 

We’re always happy to listen to your challenges, and share our thoughts and ideas. 

Send Us A Message

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