A “Data Principle” for Digital Transformation

Whether you are a highly technical computer modeler, project manager, leader, or admin, you can be battered by corporate software and by the communication pattern author Cal Newport calls “hyperactive hive mind” in his brilliant book A World Without Email. This best-selling business author and Georgetown Computer Science professor shares four “Principles” for moving beyond an inbox-driven corporate culture. These resonate and create a roadmap for unlocking productivity. As a “data guy” though, this blog explores my contention that he stopped short of adding a critical, fifth “Data Principle” to his four. I am currently working with a consulting partner on an online training in this Data Principle arena. Reach out if you want more info. We have reached the “training is deliverable live” stage of the course production process.

Banishing the inbox-driven approach is about gaining personal and team productivity and about creating delightful work culture. That drives business success. I cannot help wondering whether Cal Newport was surveilling my teams as he describes negative aspects in even highly successful companies. His point is that we have lived in this long enough to see the future. We are at a tipping point to migrate to a better place and that there is unbelievable upside to unlocking this.

What I call the “Data Principle” is democratic across levels and functions. It has at least two parts. Part One is being knowledgeable about how “structure” and “curate” data and calculation models. My case study experience gives me a lot of confidence with speaking to this. Of course, your goal of arming with knowledge is to take action to shape how you and your team actually work. Doing this makes data and models portable and collaborative across software platforms.  It also armors you for whatever comes in the form of new software, databases and open-source tools.

Data Principle Part Two is learning how to be a discerning user of the messy corporate software mayhem we all live in these days. The mayhem is not going away. The call to action is to take inventory of where your and your team’s critical data and models reside and to be intentional about making work practice choices that optimize for productivity. Are your critical data and models stored in a single location accessible to those with need? Can “data” only be gotten by pinging someone else by email or chat? Most importantly, does software honor peoples’ time and productivity, or is usability driven by Legal, HR and Security concerns? If so, are there ways (e.g. simple choices) for honoring those important concerns while making you and your team more productive?

A specific example of Part 2 tension these days is cloud storage of files. In any company, in their innermost, corporate souls, your HR, Legal, and Info Security functions (that need to check off on the licensing contract with Microsoft, Google et al.), do not want thousands of highly sensitive files on everyone’s laptops. They just don’t. There are obvious situations where it can be problematic. However, you want to have your slides, spreadsheet, or document for that meeting in 5 minutes. Also, you sometimes stay in hotels with crappy internet. In an upcoming post, I will explore that tension further with a case study and discuss how to optimize.