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  • 8 Oct 2021 8:24 AM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

    The creation of a central NHS digital database from GP records in England - General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) - has been delayed by two months. The system was due to launch on 1 July, but the date has now been pushed back to 1 September by the government.

    The NHS had been calling for a delay to allow patients more time to learn about the system. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs had also expressed concerns.

    Parties that currently oppose the database claim a lack of transparency in the process and have demanded greater consultation on how the scheme would work, as well as better communication about how patients can opt out to prevent their data being shared.

    In a recent, lively conversation DAMA UK board members Mark Humphries and Akhtar Ali discussed the pros and cons of the proposed scheme.

    Both of our experts’ positions were nuanced, with some agreement over the potential positive outcomes and shortcomings of the proposals.

    Mark declared himself broadly in favour of the programme, citing the ability to boost future medical research and improve treatments for the UK population. Akhtar immediately countered by stating the NHS has already captured and shared data for many years, citing advances made in controlling and treating Covid-19 as an example.

    Mark added he’d be happy for his data to be shared, believing it’s “a small price to pay” for groundbreaking, genetics-based research to come. He drew a line to medical research of the past, which involved a level of personal sacrifice for participants in early organ transplants - giving rise to many procedures we take for granted today.

    While current data collection currently enables NHS and academic research, Mark elaborated: “There are plans for two specific blocks of research [with the new data strategy]. One is large-scaleplanning. The other way it will be used is for developing new treatments.”

    However, Akhtar pointed out that successful lawsuits have resulted in courts preventing various commercial organisations from “patenting individuals’ genetics” as part of their plans.

    Mark conceded that using data to develop treatments is controversial as it would likely involve commercial organisations, not least pharmaceutical companies.

    He cited the case of Henrietta Lacks, an American woman who died of cervical cancer. Johns Hopkins University removed cells from her tumour that have been central to medical research ever since - without her family’s knowledge.

    Mark explained: “They were horrified. They raised the issue of big profit, people making money out of their mother’s cells. The case has since been recorded in a book written by a journalist, and it’s a source of massive pride to her family that her cells have made such a massive contribution to medicine. But in the context of data sharing this is highly relevant - when there is no trust, there's anger and bitterness.”

    Sharing data beyond the public sector would undoubtedly be a cause of concern for many people, Mark added.

    Akhtar seized on this point. He pondered: “The bigger question is: how far would companies go to get access to that data, and who will they sell it to?” He pointed to the dilemma arising from dealing with the pandemic: “Most of the data and money to fight Covid came from the public sector. But the profits are ringfenced to corporations that aren’t willing to give the vaccination free of charge to poorer, developing nations to protect their critical care staff.”

    He largely opposes the NHS digital database plans due to a perceived lack of transparency around whether consumers or commercial organisations will really benefit from the sharing of a data set worth around £5bn per year. (NB a figure of £10bn has been quoted - this includes the £5bn pa estimated value of the data and cost savings to the NHS.)

    Akhtar also said there have been around 1,300 NHS data breaches in the past two years alone. He believes fines issued by the ICO are too small to act as a deterrent for poor data management and security - with the proposed changes potentially opening the floodgates to far greater problems.

    He said: “Once we have given away £5bn-worth of data, no commercial organisation is going to relinquish “free money”. This has been demonstrated by the investment of vast public funds in Covid vaccines, yet when those same organisations are asked to provide them at cost to poorer nations they suddenly claim they aren’t charities - despite suggesting they would gladly get involved in such a scheme.”

    Akhtar compared patient data sharing beyond what is possible today to “moving from keeping embarrassing photos in a private album at home to revealing them on Facebook”.

    Mark countered that data will be pseudonymised when it leaves the GP practice - but recognised that, even with many personal details removed, records could in theory be used to identify a patient.

    He explained: “One of the things you need in order to make sure you can still link data together is a unique key. It will look like random data, but allows people to trace from the beginning of the chain to the huge database. You can identify the individual if you've got access to every link in the chain.”

    Akhtar questioned the future extent of the data-sharing scheme and whether its scope would be widened once the programme’s initial aims had been established.

    He believes the proposals suffer from a lack of trust amongst patients, and also suggested winning buy-in from the medical community would be difficult since their feedback on previous attempts to centralise and manage NHS data hadn’t always been heeded.

    “If the government had nothing to hide it would follow its own laws which were set out in the revised Data Protection Act following the GDPR regulations,” he stated. “They need to clarify who the external parties will be and what they want the data for.”

    While reaffirming his support for the scheme based on its uses for planning, research and treatment, Mark agreed with Akhtar about a current lack of transparency: “At the moment trust is missing, and that is vital in determining whether this is a success or an opportunity missed. In this delay period the government should engage, addressing these valid concerns. Who will have a say in the proposed legislation, assess applications to access the data, put controls in place - and how often will it all be reviewed?”

    In conclusion, Akhtar pointed out that even data professionals remain in the dark about the nuts and bolts of the programme: “If most people in data didn’t know this was happening until just before the original opt-out deadline, how could individuals be aware of it and know how to opt out?”

    It will be fascinating to follow the debate before the September opt-out deadline, and beyond.

    (You can read the full transcript of the head-to-head discussion below.)

    MARK: There are two different data sharing initiatives going on at the moment. One is pulling data from different health trusts and GPs so that all healthcare practitioners have access to your medical records wherever you turn up in the system. That is completely different to GPDPR, but the two are happening at the same time, which is a bit confusing.

    The two issues do get conflated. There is also an opt-out mechanism built into that. So you can say, I don't want my data shared between all the different hospitals and trusts for whatever reason. But that is limited to keeping the data within the NHS so it's only used for healthcare purposes. That is one of the benefits of having a monolithic national healthcare system.

    AKHTAR: The analogy there for me is your gran keeping a photo album. Photos are only for the album in her house, and only she's got access to it. We're now moving on to gran putting pictures on Facebook, but it’s locked to herself. So those embarrassing pictures of you are quite safe.

    So we're on a journey like that. Your data has been captured, you’ve seen a doctor, talked about some potentially embarrassing stuff. But you share that on the basis it’s confidential to your doctor.

    MARK: I would argue it's not the same as putting it on Facebook, in the public domain. The purpose of sharing is to enable research within the NHS and universities. At the moment there are plans for two specific blocks of research.

    One is large-scale planning. It's about managing healthcare capacity and treatments on aggregate numbers. It doesn't really matter who the individual statistic is, it's about the large numbers: how many people are getting liver cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer; what do childhood diseases look like?

    The other way it will be used is for developing new treatments. This is where it starts to get controversial - sharing healthcare data with commercial companies like Pfizer and AstraZeneca, so that they can use the data to develop new treatments. That's when the data goes outside the public sector. [The notion that] companies are making profit out of our data alarms people.

    And how do we know this data will be safe, that hackers aren't going to get their hands on it? An important point is that the data will be pseudonymised when it leaves the GP practice. In principle your name, NHS number, address, date of birth (but not year of birth) are removed. So in that sense it’s not like the Facebook analogy.

    Just looking at the data, you wouldn't be able to identify it’s Akhtar. But one of the problems with pseudonymised data is if someone is determined, and they have the tools and ability, they can often use various remaining attributes to build a picture - like a fuzzy photo - which is good enough to identify it’s probably Akhtar.

    AKHTAR: Let's step back a bit. Many of these things are already in flow. Your GP captures your data - they need to do that, research is ongoing. Historically, you could opt out. There was an interesting case where individuals had opted out, but the process fell over and 150,000 individuals had their data shared even though they requested it wasn’t. There have been something like 1,300 NHS data breaches in the past two years.

    NHS research happens with data sharing, for example to come up with treatment for kidney failure. Things are already happening, but we have to step back and realise NHS data will be worth £5bn per annum. That's a big number.

    When you start saying £5bn today, what will it be worth tomorrow? I’ve opted out, I’ll put my hands up. My family suffer from kidney disease. My father had a transplant. I understand the need for that. But NHS and other health organisations already have access to our data. So we need to make a big distinction that it’s nothing new. At this moment in time, we can share data and we can opt out. But who else can have access to that £5bn-worth of our data?

    The Royal College of GPs, BMA - all of them have challenged this. Mark talked about pseudonymised data. But the government's had about 200 GDPR breaches since the law kicked in - they're the ones that we know about. Then there are hackers, I don’t think any institute is foolproof.

    The bigger question is: how far would companies go to get access to that data, and who will they sell it to? This is the reason the Royal College of GPs and the BMA and others have challenged this, because there’s no clarity. Will it be sold to pharmaceuticals, AI companies, or even investors potentially looking to buy into UK hospitals and so on, cherrypicking what to buy based on the data?

    The pandemic is a great example of how data was shared. But at the same time, the vast majority of investment in vaccines was funded with public money. Why should we be worried to share our data? Well, that’s a perfect example. We spend billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to make our vaccine, using our data. But when it’s for the greater good, vaccinating people in poorer countries, it’s a case of these companies saying it’s not their purpose. They are commercial organisations, not philanthropists.

    To me, it's about asking what are the implications once we open the floodgates?

    MARK: A technical point about pseudonymisation. One of the things you need in order to make sure you can still link data together is a unique key. It will look like random data, but allows people to trace from the beginning of the chain to the huge database. So it's not completely anonymised. You can trace the data back to identify the individual if you've got access to every link in the chain.

    If it was fully anonymised, it would be a one-way flow with no way to link it back to the original source records. There's an awful lot of work goes into pseudonymisation, what you can and can't do.

    I also want to make a quick point about the risks Akhtar has laid out. Things could go wrong - they’re all valid concerns. What he hasn't said is, this data should not be shared.

    I'm keen to emphasise from my point of view that I'm still in favour of sharing healthcare data. But secondly, you need to have trust in order to share data. And at the moment trust is missing.

    So the most important thing to do with this delay period is engage, have the debate, address all those concerns. Under what conditions will data be shared with commercial companies? Who will have a say in the proposed legislation, assess applications to access the data, put controls in place?

    What I haven't seen is any details about who will be on that body and their terms of reference or decision-making process. We need to put controls in place relevant for today, but also reviewed on a cycle to assess whether they are still relevant and robust at that time.

    If you look back at the history of medicine, a lot of what we take for granted today involved sacrifice and some dodgy ethical groundwork - anatomy, grave robbers and so on, so the first doctors could understand how the human body works. Even organ transplant as recently as the 1960s is relevant. Doctors didn't understand organ rejection, so just went ahead and implanted living kidneys. Not only did the patients die, but the deaths that they suffered were actually much worse than natural kidney failure.

    And yet, if that experimentation had not happened, then organ transplantation and the the anti-rejection drugs which have been developed off the back of it would not be in place. This is something we take for granted now. So there is sacrifice and so, from my point of view, that’s why I'm happy to share my data. I think it's a small price to pay for future benefits of medicine.

    Future medical research will be based on genetics. A big pool of data would therefore be valuable from a research point of view, to identify certain genes and how they affect the whole population.

    AKHTAR: I watched a programme which was a discussion about the majority of learnings for the basis of medicine coming from Islam. Oxford University has many historical books on medicine, but wasn’t willing to share so much knowledge so [the programme said] they hid the books. So my concern comes back to trust.

    Then genetics and DNA. Who is the benefit for in the US when they want to patent my DNA? The big thing we don't talk about here is the ethics of data. It's going to become the blood supply of capitalist organisations trying to get into the NHS on the cheap.

    This is a concern for all health organisations and charities - where is that data going to go? Why can't the government come out and say, these are the potential companies we want to give it to. If it's all about my care, why would you want to patent it, why don’t you give it to everyone so they can all come up with the best cure?

    At the moment, we're still getting a good deal in comparison to the rest of the world on medication cost. So what are the controls, and who are the benefits for?

    MARK: The government absolutely needs to build trust. Unless they do that, this will fail. I think that will be a huge opportunity missed. This has the potential to unlock future healthcare treatments that we will all benefit from. People's valid concerns need to be tackled.

    When there is no trust, there's fear and anger. But if concerns are recognised, the conversation is had and the value is explained, it actually becomes a very positive story.

    Another general point, a lot of people think GDPR was put in place to stop data sharing. But actually one of its main goals is to encourage data sharing by putting trust in place. So there are limits to what you can do and protections in place so people know what’s possible and how they can complain.

    In the pandemic, vaccine scepticism is uneven in the population. If you saw the same attitudes in NHS data sharing and didn’t get representation across age and ethnicity that would be a problem. Getting a big enough sample is important but it needs to be representative.

    AKHTAR: We can talk about trust and benefits, but the government tried to do something similar in 2014 with social care data. We have pooled data for the NHS and it’s shared in the UK. A hospital anywhere will have my records. These things already happen - so the big thing is who do we want to share the data with?

    Be up front and tell us the purpose. It feels cloak and dagger. Most data professionals didn’t know this was happening till just before the [original opt-out] deadline so how could individuals be aware of it, and know how to opt out? That illustrates the problem of trust. When billion pound contracts are handed out people will wonder who’s really benefitting.

    If GPs and the BMA are not comfortable then it rings alarm bells for anyone who uses the NHS.

    MARK: I am still pro data sharing, but of course all of these concerns are valid. We need to talk about what measures will be taken to secure the data, and be transparent about who it will be shared with. Good management of risk is critical here.

  • 26 Jul 2021 8:09 AM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    I’m delighted to announce that we have completed another round of elections to the DAMA board. This round of elections broke two records, one for the number of candidates that came forward (23) and for the total number of votes cast (353). I am particularly delighted to welcome three brand new members to the committee (in alphabetic order):

    • Jenny Andrew has over 10 years of experience and a PhD working with oceanographic data. She now works in the trade union movement and is Head of Data at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
    • Phil Jones is Marks and Spencers’ Data Governance and Quality Strategist. His experience has taught him how to build data governance from the ground up and how to make data governance engaging and business-focused and an enabler to business transformation.
    • James Tucker is a career statistician, currently working at the ONS where he has led some of the department’s highest profile outputs, including Consumer Price Inflation and employment statistics. James founded the Government Data Quality Hub in 2020, a new function to set direction and lead improvements to data quality across all of government.

    We now have a strong committee of highly qualified and motivated data management professionals, and together we will work to continue to build an programme of activities, events and webinars to serve our growing membership.

    The last year was a good one for DAMA UK. We have trebled our membership from 250 to over 750. In part this reflects a growing awareness of the value of data management. I think that it is also related to an important exercise that we undertook last year when we developed a marketing strategy for the first time. In the exercise we really looked critically at DAMA UK from our members’ point of view and considered how we added value. The themes that stood out were CDMP, access to interesting material, networking events and mentoring. We will continue to develop our offerings along these lines.

    As we develop these themes, we will be reaching out to you, our members, to contribute. If you have an idea for a webinar or a blog, please share it. If we are holding an event in your area and you have a story that you would like to present, please volunteer. If you would like to be a mentor to other data management professionals, please get in touch.

    Mark Humphries, DAMA UK Chair

     

  • 28 May 2021 3:08 PM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    https://unsplash.com/photos/JyJwO0K5fWM

    DATA MANAGEMENT MENTORING – A DECADE OF DELICATE BALANCE

    As a co-founder of DAMA UK’s mentoring scheme, it’s no surprise that I am a great advocate of the value of mentoring, both in our data management profession and in life.   I’m delighted to say that this year marks the 10th anniversary of our scheme, founded back in 2011.

    Since its inception we have used the University of California’s definition of mentoring as ‘a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else’ .  The scheme’s main aims have also remained unchanged over the intervening period and are to:

    ·         Help improve the skills and expertise of all DAMA UK members by growing skills, expertise and best practice across the organisation.

    ·         Support the professionalism of all DAMA UK members

    ·         Raise the profile of data management specialists across wider UK industry

    We launched the scheme after it became clear to the committee that some of our members want to talk with other data management professionals who are not their managers or work colleagues.  This may be to help them with specific data management problems, e.g. how can I get senior managers in my organisation to buy in to data governance?  How do I start a customer master data management project?  How do I build a business case for improving data quality?   In addition, some want to focus on their own personal and professional development, e.g. What should I do to prepare myself to take on a data governance role?  I don’t feel I am getting the credit within my company for what I do in data management, so how can I raise my profile and be recognised more widely? 

    The scheme is open only to DAMA UK individual or corporate members.  In the last 10 years more than 60 DAMA UK members have been connected to a variety of mentors who have provided support across the entire breadth of the data management disciplines including data architecture, business intelligence, data quality and data governance, in addition to career path advice.  At the present time 10 mentors are mentoring more than 25 DAMA UK members.  We are also currently revamping the scheme to make it easier for mentors and mentees to link up more easily via the DAMA UK website.

    Having been a mentor myself since the start, what have I learned about mentoring?  First, being a mentor is as much a learning experience as being a mentee, as I have been exposed to many different data management people and their problems working in a wide variety of organisational cultures, including small businesses, global multinationals and UK government departments.  This has taught me that although good practice in data management is often generic, with many different organisations facing similar challenges with data quality, governance, reporting and so on, understanding specific cultural contexts is critical to providing viable support and advice.  What works in a small business may not do so in a multinational and vice versa. 

    Moreover, what mentees usually want is not someone to tell them what to do, but a mentor who acts as a sounding board to listen to their ideas and thoughts, ask independent questions, provide feedback and generally act as a supportive friend who has their best interests at heart.  In essence,  mentoring should be all about helping others to develop themselves in the direction they want to go in.  As the film director Steven Spielberg observed, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” 

    If you are a DAMA UK member and have not been involved to date by either being a mentor or a mentee (or both) why not give it a try?  In the first instance go to the mentoring pages on our website at https://www.dama-uk.org/Mentoring for more information on the scheme, and how to get involved.  Here’s to the next 10 years!   

    Nigel Turner

    Principal Information Management Consultant, Global Data Strategy

    DAMA UK Committee Member  

  • 27 Apr 2021 7:58 AM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

    I want to start by telling you a bit about me, my name is Andy Lunt and I’m a Data Governance Manager at The Adecco Group. I’ve worked for The Adecco Group for the last 13 years starting out as a recruitment consultant, moving on into setting up and managing an Management Informationteam both here in the UK and Poland. I’ve now taken on the role of leading the implementation of a data governance programme.

    I have lots of hobbies outside of work that keep me busy that in climbing to shooting clay pigeon as well DIY – I live in an old cottage so always lots of things to fix! I love to have a tiple at the weekends my poison of choice being Belgian beer!

    The Path

    There are many different ways for an organisation to start a data governance programme. Some are traditional and conventional, others less so. What’s more important is that in any organisation that depends on data, data governance happens rather than who starts it or how it’s started.

    Increasingly, businesses are using buzz words like ‘data driven’ or ‘predictive analytics’ and so on. Part of the job of a new data governance manager is to help the organisation realise these aspirations by helping them understand the ‘as is’ data landscape and what foundations need to be put in place to enable analytics, data science and data engineering teams to get to their promised land.

    At Adecco in the UK I have started our data governance journey 12 months ago, the driving force behind the move is the need for data to play a central role in helping us achieve our strategic goals.One of our big investments in this area was a data science function. We want this function to deliver insight into how our business operates but more importantly show us how to react to the changes in the world of recruitment around us.

    The Challenge

    The challenge, as any large organisation can sympathise with, is a large volume of data spread out in a federated fashion, which essentially means siloed data! Housed in a mixture of legacy and new systems. If we couple this challenge with limited system and data documentation and no real data ownership, we have recipe for failure when it comes to being a data driven organisation.

    How I answered the Challenge!

    • Data Ownership through the appointment of Data Stewards and Data Owners – to tackle the issue of ‘no responsibility’ for poor data and to make sure we have subject matter experts in the right areas to maintain the standard we set
    • Data governance policy – to tackle the understanding of what is expected of everyone in our organisation and to formalise the need for our employees to reach a certain standard with data that we set.
    • Implementation of a data cataloguing and governance tool – to help us to control and track our data standards in one place by connecting to our critical business systems. It is also allowing data discovery to all our data stakeholders, highlighting where data improvement is necessary in great detail
    • Built a data dictionary and business glossary of terms - to improve our understanding of the meaning of the data captured in our systems. This central documentation is critical to our business speaking the same language and understanding the impact of change.
    • Proof of Concepts pilots in the areas of Human Resources and Finance to prove the concept of data governance
    • Raising awareness of data best practices – we have built data governance into business process by having consideration for data management practices in our project charts and system development teams dev standards

    All these steps Adecco are taking are a collective effort to help us mature our data management practices and achieve our ultimate goal of becoming a data driven organisation in a safe and controlled way.

    Want to hear more? DAMA UK members can access my webinar by logging into the website. You’ll find my webinar in the resources area. Enjoy

     

  • 8 Mar 2021 1:53 PM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    Hi I'm Nicola Askham, one of the Directors for DAMA UK.  For the past two years I've been responsible for arranging and hosting the webinars for DAMA UK. I can honestly say it's been an inspiring, if busy role. I get to meet a range of really interesting people who share a wide range of insights and stories.

    As the host I have to turn up to all of the webinars.  I can honestly say that I have listened to presentations and heard people speak on topics that I wouldn't ordinarily have joined a webinar to learn about. So, if you do see one of our webinars being advertised on a topic that isn't perhaps your area of data speciality, please be open minded and register.  Listen to the webinar and you may be surprised what you will learn. Often tips shared in respect of one data management discipline are translatable to other data management disciplines.

    I have been amazed at the gems I have picked up from listening to webinars on topics that have nothing to do with my speciality.

    Up until last year all of our webinars were publicly available on the Brighttalk platform, but late last year we started providing additional webinars which are only available to our members. They have been a great success. 

    These webinars have provided very focussed advice for our members and given them a chance to question experts in their field.  Our latest members only webinar was in fact a presentation practice session. It gave members a safe space to practice presenting via video and gain feedback from three of our experienced committee members.  The feedback was so good that we are planning further presentation practice sessions later in the year. Please let us know if you would like to take part in one of them.

    I am currently planning our webinars for the rest of the year.  We are looking for people willing to share their stories, across all data management disciplines. If you believe that you've got a great story to share, some tips, or even better a case study of how adopting one of the data management disciplines has enabled you and your organisation to achieve better things, we'd love to hear from you.

    We have a number of the DAMA DMBoK version 2 copies which we will be giving to our webinar presenters as a thank you for doing the webinar for us.

    If you do have a story you'd like to share, please get in touch: info@DAMAUK.org

  • 17 Feb 2021 7:29 AM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    I’m in the room – are you?


    Photo by Jaime Lopes on Unsplash

    I’m not really a big fan of online or remote interaction – frequently exacerbated by my failure to properly harness new technology. But needs must and, for me at least, working from home is going to be my new normal for the foreseeable future, so I thought I’d better start embracing it! Back in November I attended my first ever virtual conference – the IRM MDM and Data Governance summit. I’ve been a regular attendee at this event for more than 10 years as a delegate, speaker and sponsor. This is not a paid advert by the way - based on my personal experience I would say to anyone that this is a really valuable peer to peer learning event for data management professionals. As such I wanted to get the most out of it, to try and recreate the in-person experience and catch up with people in my network. So I committed to ‘be in the room’.

    I remember a keynote from a previous IRM event, delivered by Nigel Risner:

    https://www.irmconnects.com/are-you-making-an-impact/

    He challenged  the audience to be in the room. “Do you live your life in the present or past tense? If you are in the room, be in the room. If your mind is elsewhere you might as well leave now.”

    I can’t recall everything he said – I was somewhat distracted by the multitude of animal hats he was wearing and the fact that at the end of it I think I concluded I was a Dolphin……but I did leave my phone in my bag and try to pay proper attention to the speakers and presentations that followed.

    So on November 3rd 2020 I booked 2 days off for personal development in the work calendar,  switched on my Out of Office notification, logged out of my work email and sat down with the conference agenda, circling the sessions that most interested me. This included a virtual wine tasting guided by a sommelier (@diegosomm) from Argentina – yum! I treated anything marked on the agenda as a networking break as just that – not a catch up with email opportunity. I had some lovely video chats with people in the breakout rooms. And I popped along to the sponsors area to look at what solutions were being promoted, now that GDPR is ‘old news’.

    It is much harder to ‘be in the room’ in a virtual environment. The platform format helped quite a lot with that. Sessions were auto-scheduled and if you were late for the start you missed the first few minutes . I think if everything was ‘on demand’ I’d have found it harder to commit the time. The presenters were on video – they couldn’t see you, but the fact that you can see who’s talking makes it easier to listen. You could type in Q & A in real time so there was some ‘live’ interaction. And, unlike the in-person event, this time I could download the whole presentation the next day – not just the slides. So often it’s the commentary that sparks the light bulb moment – not the words on the page. On the concluding panel session someone also pointed out that if you’d chosen a session unwisely (I’ve sat through some ‘big data’ ones in my time where the presenter could have been speaking in a foreign language for all that I understood) you could just switch over – no more needing to do the walk of shame and try and sneak out of the rear doors.

    So did I prefer the virtual platform to the in-person event? No - but I did enjoy it and I think that was down to the fact that I committed to “be in the room”. Whilst I was having a lovely time catching up with past colleagues I should take this opportunity to apologise to my current ones as I really did put the day job aside for two days – but I have some great Argentinean wine recommendations if you need them!

    Mary Drabble is the Principal Data Governance Analyst at Standard Life Aberdeen, leading a team embedding the organisation-wide Data Governance Implementation Framework. Mary has a proven track record in Master Data Management, Data Governance and Data Quality tools, methodologies, architectures and processes. Prior to taking on an end user role, as a consultant with more than 15 years’ experience in Information Management, she helped clients across all industries in a wide variety of engagements ranging from Analytical to Operational data and information management solutions.

  • 17 Jan 2021 7:09 PM | Lisa Allen (Administrator)


    Photo by Daniel on Unsplash

    This is a different type of blog! I'm Lisa Allen and I am a data professional who has worked in data for many years. Recently, Nicola Askham interviewed me for DAMA UK on the topic of data governance. During the interview, I referred to several different resources and I promised to share them with you all, so here they are. But to start with, if you missed the interview, you can find it here:

    • Data Governance Interview with Lisa Allen. 

    https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/12405/459879/data-governance-interview-with-lisa-allen

    Websites

    With so many to choose from, I find myself on these more often than most. 

    Books 

    If you’re just starting in data governance the Data Management Book of Knowledge (DMBoK) is a must-read. And even if you are experienced, it is a handy reference guide. 

    Podcasts 

    Personal skills 

    Personal skills are essential for data governance. How to influence, how to deal with conflict and make yourself resilient etc. These all can help you on your journey. To develop your personal and leadership skills I’d highly recommend: 

    Data technical skills

    To keep learning what is going on in the world of data I listen to the following: 

    Examples of data principles and data maturity models

    As a data professional, I think it helps to refer to other organisations approaches for ideas and tips. Here are a few examples to help you on your way.

    And finally, if you’d like to see an example of a data maturity model here’s a blog that explains the approach and a link to the model itself. 

    That’s it! I hope you find these resources useful. There are so many more out there. Let us know what resources you use in your data governance approach.


  • 22 Dec 2020 12:42 PM | Lisa Allen (Administrator)


    Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

    The UK Government launched its National Data Strategy (NDS) in 2020, the government sought feedback from all industries, from 9th September to 9th December, focusing on the following key topic:

    1.    Unlocking the value of data across the economy

    2.    Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime

    3.    Transforming the government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services.

    4.     Ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies

    5.     Championing the international flow of data

    Why DAMA UK responded to the NDS Consultation?

    Data and information are key enterprise assets that support an organisation. DAMA UK’s mission is to nurture a community of data professionals in the UK who champion the value of data management. We do this by connecting people, providing resources, and supporting development.

    Therefore, DAMA UK is in a unique position to provide a response with and on behalf of our members, who cover the width and breadth of data professionals in the UK. Our members are from a plethora of industries and sectors including but not limited to, charity, utilities, defence, communication, education, government, agriculture, and health etc.

    DAMA UK’s Position on the NDS Consultation

    DAMA UK is passionate both about the future of data and the development of data professionals in the UK. We play an active part in the Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBoK), which includes the combined knowledge of data professionals around the world. We support the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) qualification. Which certifies data professionals around the world in the disciplines of data management, ensuring a common standard. 

    DAMA UK strongly supports the principles behind the UK National Data Strategy. 

    1. Especially a strategy that provides a national framework to make data universally usable, by providing clarity of definitions, guidelines, and standards.
    2. That will nurture trust in all organisations to work collaboratively to boost their individual industries, whilst cumulating in a world-leading data economy that the UK public can trust.
    3. By creating an open and trusted data infrastructure that drives efficiencies as seen in the COVID-19 vaccine collaboration.
    4. By providing cybersecurity and prevention of data threats across UK Plc.
    5. In addition, post-COVID-19 and Brexit the UK government needs to explore the opportunities and challenges of our hyper-digital world and consider all relevant priorities, potential trade-offs, and decisions. Which can be used to create post-Brexit industry leaders here in the UK in preparation for the fourth industrial revolution.

    Approach to the response 

    I led a small subcommittee. We reached out to the DAMA UK’s membership through the monthly newsletter, blogs, monthly Bright Talk events and via all DAMA UK’s social media channels including LinkedIn and Twitter. With a month to respond to the consultation, our members responded from their respective industries which gave us a varied and wide-ranging response. Our subcommittee curated the material into our government NDS Consultation document. You can review our collated response in the member’s area.

    Next Steps

    The government will publish its response to the consultation in early 2021. Subject to the consultation’s findings, the government may carry out further consultation or provide details of any potential changes to the current framework strategy. 

    It's an exciting time to be in data in the UK. Watch this space, as there may be an opportunity to further input into the UK's National Data Strategy.

    Lastly, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of our members who contributed to the response!

    Season’s greetings and Happy New Year

    Akhtar Ali

    Akhtar Ali is Vice Chair of DAMA UK. A Data & Information Governance specialist with a wealth of experience in creating and implementing data vision and strategy. Akhtar has an extensive experience of working in the utilities industry, where he has gained both regulatory and commercial experience. He has a proven track record in Records Retention, GDPR, Data Governance, Data Quality tools, and Information Management, supported by strong Change Management and Business Transformation skills.


  • 20 Nov 2020 8:02 AM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

    Tomas Sanchez’s blog described how doing the right thing by data can feel like a curse – something that resonated with many of us, who face the same challenge in our organisations. Lisa Allen’s blog proposed some practical advice to tackling “the curse” – giving data a voice, taking a structured approach and using data storytelling. All great suggestions, but what if your organisation still resists implementing them? How can you spot the opposing behaviours and be forearmed with actions to finally lift the curse?

    1.       Obstacles, arguments and reasons organisations give for not implementing changes
    Change is not easy for most of us, but for organisations it can feel especially daunting. Change requires effort and effort requires change. The most common arguments I have heard are:

    “It’s too expensive” to make improvements there will be some cost, either in technology or people, and now more than ever, we are at a time when money for additional improvements is scarce.

     “We’ve managed ok so far” or “we’ve always done it this way”. People are busy with their day jobs, they’ve worked the same way for years, so it must be good enough, surely?

    “We don’t have time for this” usually accompanied by “we just need to deliver”. In other words, nobody has factored in change, they have forgotten to include this within their project/budget/roadmap.

    “We have more urgent priorities” a statement that invariably means the arguer does not understand the correlation between successful outcomes and data, and how failure to manage the latter, will probably result in failure to deliver the former.

    “If we get the right technology, it will sort the problem”. Surely the most flawed argument of all. Anybody who has ever heard this might as well have heard “abandon hope all ye who enter here!”


    2.       What are the behaviours to look for?
    An organisation’s reluctance to implement change and address the curse is often due to individual behaviours. Here are some to look out for.

    ·         Data is not in the strategy. As data professionals, we assume that everyone understands the cause and effect of poor data management on business goals. However, this is rarely the case and, if your organisation has not committed to improving data management in its strategy, it shows they don’t value it enough to commit to it. 
    ·         Quoting anecdotal evidence. As data professionals we deal with evidence and facts, but all too often you can hear incorrect statements repeated in meetings. It happens so often they pass into popular lore. A good response to the often repeated “the data quality is poor” is “can you show me the evidence?” They rarely can.
    ·         Lack of ownership. If an organisation cannot determine who owns its data, it lacks data maturity. Establishing known roles and responsibilities for data is crucial to good data management, and the foundation of doing the right thing.
    ·         Lack of governance. If data governance is not implemented, it shows that the organisation does not feel it is important. It is all very well having technical design authorities, but if these exclude data then a huge portion of the organisation’s assets are uncontrolled.
    ·         Blaming others. Individuals absolve their own responsibility by pointing out others’ shortcomings. If you hear “nobody told me I had to “or “there isn’t any guidance” or “my manager didn’t tell I needed to” you know that the organisation is reluctant to promote and support changes. Roles and responsibilities around data need to start at the top or it will be too easy to find excuses.
    ·         Technology is king. A technology-centric organisation makes data subservient. If a project has budget for technical solutions professionals, but will not fund data professionals, you know that priorities are not favourable to data. If an organisation decides which technical solution is the answer before considering data, you know that they have a long way to go.
     
    3.       What can management and organisations do to cope with the lack of change when results are needed?
    Data transformations do not happen overnight and change needs two things – Firstly communication from data people.  Our practices can be mysterious to those that outside our profession. Secondly commitment from management to promote and support good data practices.

    So here is some advice I would give:

    ·         Listen take some time to understand what is impacting the organisation. You don’t need specialist consultants coming into tell you what the problems are, just talk to your employees.  They will tell you what is impacting service delivery, and from there it is often easy to diagnose the data problems.
    ·         Look at what is available to help you. There are many community groups and initiatives around data. There are industry standards you can adopt. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Us data professionals are a resourceful lot, and organisations like DAMA UK exist to help you navigate your way to improved data practices.
    ·         Learn from those organisations who have invested time, effort and funds in making inroads into lifting the curse. Obtain case studies, both within your organisation and outside about what has worked well.
    ·         Leverage the skills and people you already have. People fix data problems, not tools. To make lasting change, you will need to commit to empowering and supporting these people to do a good job.
    ·         Legislate by implementing governance, policy and structures. Good data management isn’t a one-off, it needs monitoring and maintaining. That requires a commitment to invest.
     
    With communication and commitment, data management will improve and the curse of doing right for data can be lifted!

    Sarah Burnett is interim Chief Data Architect at Defra and is responsible for building a data architecture service. Sarah has thirty years’ experience of leading data transformation projects.

    Find the earlier blogs here:

    Tomas Sanchez – The Curse of doing right for data https://www.dama-uk.org/Blog/9222122

    Lisa Allen – What is data done right https://www.dama-uk.org/Blog/9320297

  • 22 Oct 2020 9:04 PM | Sue Russell (Administrator)

    Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

    Part 2: What is data done right?

    As Tomas Sanchez set out in the first blog of this series, data management can often feel like a curse of doing right for data. I’m going to talk to you about practical advice to help you address some of the challenges you may face.

    As many people are aware data is a vital asset for an organisation. It enables better understanding, allows you to gain insight and make better decisions. But organisations don’t always value it as such an asset. As a data professional this is challenging, but it is also your calling to turn this around for your organisation. Here are several practical steps that can help you to do right for data.

    1. A voice for data

    Whereas other functions like Human Resources or Finance have departments that give them a voice, not all organisations have a Data Department. As a data professional you can ensure data has a voice in your organisation by addressing the following areas:

    • Ensure you have senior buy in. Is there a senior manager in the business that understands the importance of data? Can you ask him or her to be the ambassador for the data, to give this perspective on the Board or at the Executive table? This will help ensure you have a data champion at the highest level.
    • Form a coalition of the willing. In organisations you naturally have people who are data advocates. These are found across the organisation and are the ones who passionately care about data even though they fill other roles. They may not even realise they are data people. You will need to identify and work with this group. They may be early adopters of your proposed changes, and they can spread best practice throughout your organisation.
    • Create a data team. You may already be lucky enough to have one or lead one. You want your data team to be the one everyone wants to work with or in. You want to show your value to the organisation by communicating the great work you are doing and how it is helping deliver business outcomes. Remember to concentrate on the benefit to the organisation and the concrete deliverables. This makes data more tangible.

    2. A structured approach

    Data spans so many different disciplines and touches every part of the business. It can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some tips:

    • Start with what outcomes your organisation wants to achieve and how can data help achieve these. What needs to be different about the data to achieve success for your business strategy?  Is it that you need to exploit your data more?  Is it that you don’t know what data you have? Understanding how your data supports your business strategy will enable you to set out your data strategy.
    • Next develop your plan of action. What areas are you going to tackle first and what does success look like?  Any data work can take a while to show real business benefit. People are impatient, and you’ll need to show returns through quick wins in the short term until, over time, you are able deliver the optimal benefit.
    • Make it easy for people to do the right thing. Often with data we congratulate ourselves for fixing data problems, but we should really save our celebrations for ensuring these issues never arise. Are there things you can put in place so that you tackle issues upstream before they even become a problem? For example, automatically recording metadata for your data assets, instead of relying on people manually documenting the data they have created or updated.

    3. Data story telling

    Being able to tell stories about the data and why people should care helps engage your organisation and get them onboard. Here are some things to consider:

    • Imagine - Can you use stories that help set out a different future? Can you engage people’s imagination to envisage a different future? Using examples of how the world is changing and how your business needs to adapt to deliver your business strategy can help spark the interests of many. Be careful though as some may think the possibilities are fanciful.
    • Scare stories – no one comes to work to do a bad job, so people may become defensive about examples of bad data practice from within your own organisation. Therefore, it’s always good to have cases from other organisations.  You can find these easily in the media. Anything from data quality issues to data protection breaches and more. Use these stories to help you with your own journey.
    • Progress – don’t forget to tell the story of how things are progressing. Tell people how you are delivering your data strategy and what that means for the business in meeting its aspirations. You cannot communicate too much – keep data on the radar.

    And finally, for me, it’s all about positivity. Data transformations can be hard. But with drive and enthusiasm success will come and, when they do, celebrate the successes. If these things were easy then your organisation wouldn’t need you.  But they do.

    Lisa Allen – Is Head of Data and Analytical Services at Ordnance Survey. A seasoned data professional with experience across government. Lisa is a committee member of DAMA UK nurturing a community of data professionals across the UK.

    This is part of a three-part series. Next hear from Sarah Burnett:

    Part 3: Main symptoms of the curse

    What are the main obstacles, arguments and reasons that organisations give for not implementing changes? What are the behaviours to look for? What does management and those organisations do to cope with the lack of change when results are needed.

    You can read part 1 here:

    Part 1: The Curse of doing right for data - Tomas Sanchez

    https://www.dama-uk.org/Blog/9222122

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