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The 3 core capabilities you need to be a more effective Data Management Professional

3 skills you need to be an effective data management professional

Data Management Professionals are in high demand. Unfortunately, many struggle to succeed in this role because they lack the right skill set.

Often, Data Management roles are filled by someone with an I.T. background. This makes sense to the business – they view Data and I.T. as two sides of the same coin. 

However the business are the ones that create data. They determine what products we sell, which customers we sell them to, where we ship from etc. If we want to manage data, we need to engage the business and get their input, insight and leadership, too.

Data Management Professionals need to learn how to engage, excite and collaborate with business peers. The 3 core capabilities we call out in this article will help any data management professional to become more effective.


Data Management Professionals with I.T. backgrounds typically end up banging their head against a brick wall, trying to motivate change across the business.

If you’re a Data Management Professional that’s struggling to drive change in your firm, read on to learn the 3 Capabilities you need to succeed.

Table stakes: Knowledge of data management best practices

Our 2021 research discovered that 42% of firms hire Data Management Professionals from I.T. and give them little or no training to succeed. 

This is unforgivable – you cannot expect any of your staff to succeed without proper training. 

At a minimum, you need your Data Management Professionals trained on "the What" and "the Why" so they have a plan of what to do and why it matters.

Increasing Data Management Knowledge

In order to increase your skills in data management, you need to learn the ropes.

  1. What to do – what are the key tasks, activities and outcomes you need to deliver?
  2. Why you should do it – at a basic level, what benefit will be achieved for your organisation once these outcomes are delivered?

This was once a challenging, trial-and-error task. Fortunately, the data management community has released an abundance of information that you can use to increase your knowledge.

Free Data Management Resources

If you have no budget to spend, you’ll need to invest time to learn the ropes.

Start here:

  1. Cognopia’s Resources section has many free articles that teach the basics
  2. LinkedIn Groups, such as the Data Quality and Data Governance Leadership Forum, share practical tips and allow you to engage your peers
  3. Check out your local library and seek out books such as Enterprise Information Management by John Ladley, or the DAMA DMBoK 

Be aware that self-study takes time, effort, commitment and patience, so if you can get budget from your firm (or your own pocket) it will definitely short-cut this process.


Paid Data Management Resources

The entry level cost for this would be to purchase books on the subject. 

More expensive options exist, including the following:

  1. Online training course providers, such as DataVersity, DataManagementU, eLearningCurve and the Cognopia Academy have on demand courses you can take at your leisure
  2. Data Management Conferences allow you to network and bump shoulders with peers to share ideas and discuss your challenges
  3. In-house Data Management Training and workshops – the most expensive option, but can be tailored to meet your organisation’s specific needs and challenges (click here to discuss)

Lastly, you may consider getting formal Data Management Certification for yourself or your team, to give the business confidence that you’re following a best-practice approach.

Using data management knowledge

Regardless of which option you chose to acquire the knowledge, you now need to put it to use.

Sadly, much of the Data Management Certification training lacks “the How” – detailed skills and abilities to actually turn “the What” and “the Why” of Data Management into reality.

Increasing Data Management Ability

Knowing what you need to do and why you need to do it is useless unless you know how to make that a reality. 

This is the second layer of Data Management Effectiveness, and it’s often overlooked.

Critical Data Management Skills

Data Management is not a one-off project. It is a discipline that requires ongoing effort, engagement and investment if you want it to succeed. 

The following skills are most critical for Data Management Professionals to acquire and leverage:

  1. Project/Program Management skills – how to prioritise and orchestrate a transformation program across the organisation
  2. Leadership skills – how to “create the future” and lead your business on a journey to get there
  3. Change Management skills – to succeed, you’ll be changing People, Processes and Technology across the business. Learn the skills you need to bring your business colleagues along for the ride
  4. Time management skills – the ability to set your agenda and align it against organisation and personal priorities
  5. Listening and Influence skills – first seek to understand, then you can be understood
  6. Strategy skills – how to understand your business strategy and translate that into a data strategy that delivers value
As you can see, this list of skills is diverse and sometimes challenging to develop. A keen sense of empathy and an ability to really listen to the needs of the business helps build trust and confidence in the Data Management program. 

Execution Ability

If you look at a common data management framework, such as the DAMA Wheel, you’ll see there are multiple components to data management.

One mistake many Data Management Professionals make is thinking they need to do all of these things to be successful.

In reality you need to relentlessly prioritise. Focus on the areas in your business that you can have measurable impact on, and execute these violently and effectively.

Consider hiring in a Data Management Consultant to help if you are doing this for the first time.

Experience is critical to success. Many Data Management Professionals rely on their experience in one firm. Learning what works and what fails in different contexts is critical to long-term success.

Increasing Data Management Motivation

It is not enough to know what to do, why you need to do it, and how you go about it. 

To truly become a successful Data Management Professional you need the Motivation to succeed. You will need to keep running into brick walls, picking yourself back up again, and running hard at the next brick wall.

This constant battle is more similar to a start-up founder than a comfortable in-house I.T. role. The temptation to “do the easy things” that appease the business must be overcome so you can focus on the hard things that transform your business.

Don't take Yes for an answer!

Many of the Data Management Professionals we work with are convinced they have the support of the business, because middle and senior management say yes to their requests.

On the surface, this sounds great. Who wouldn’t want that level of executive buy-in?

In reality, these “yes’s” are a no in disguise. 

  • The Exec says Yes, as long as they don’t need to fund it
  • Your middle managers say Yes, provided your team does the work and their team stays on BAU
  • The boss says Yes, then delegates the task to your team in addition to your day-to-day work
Do they really sound like “Yes” to you?
Remember, Yes is nothing without How

To change the motive of the whole organisation takes time and effort. 

If your peers say yes, as long as they don’t need to do the work or pay the bill, that’s really not helpful.

You need a clear commitment to deliver against the tasks and activities, which means you need to properly scope the requirements and turn up with a clear plan to begin with.

Motivate with the Carrot AND the Stick

Different teams respond to different incentives. You need to get under the skin of your organisation and work out:

  1. What is the best incentive for the senior management?
  2. Is this the same incentive needed to get middle management on board?
  3. How can I motivate “the D-Suite” or the doers doing actual work in my firm to join this campaign?

Start with the financial benefits to your firm. For senior leadership, reducing risk (especially of them going to jail) is greater than increasing revenues, which is usually more important than cutting costs. 

Get the Senior Leadership to buy into the value of your work, then use this to adjust KPIs or other performance metrics for the key staff you need to do the work. 

Develop a bespoke Communication Plan for your firm to drive action and maintain momentum.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! The only way to sustain a Data Management Program is through successful bi-directional communication with those impacted by your changes.

How Effective are you as a Data Management Professional?

Which of the above skills are you missing?

What’s stopping you from acquiring these skills?

How much more impactful and effective could you be if you know what to do, why you need it, how to do it, and how to bring your business peers on the journey with you?

If you’d like our help developing these skills, get in touch using the form below:

Want to become a more effective data management professional? Talk to Cognopia:


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