Malcolm brings more than 25 years’ experience in data management and has worked in a variety of sectors, including finance, insurance, manufacturing, government, defense and intelligence, pharmaceuticals and retail. His deep experience spans specializations in data governance, master/reference data management, metadata engineering, business rules management/execution, data architecture and design, and the organization of Enterprise Information Management.
Malcolm is a well-known presenter at conferences in the US and Europe, writes columns in trade journals and has authored three books: Managing Reference Data in Enterprise Databases; How to Build a Business Rules Engine; and Definitions in Information Management. In 2011, Malcolm was presented with the prestigious DAMA International Professional Achievement Award for contributions to Master Data Management. He holds an M.A. from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D. from the University of Bristol.
We asked Malcolm to share thoughts on his new role at FSFP and the industry, and here’s what he had to say.
I see my Chief Innovation Officer role as having three parts. One is to come up with methodologies and techniques, since data governance, architecture and information management are all rapidly evolving. The needs are great, people don’t even understand how to use the tools they have today to achieve the results they want tomorrow. And without this knowledge, they don’t know what to stand up to meet their use cases. So, I’ll spend a lot of time on methodologies and tools.
The second part of my role is to keep up with what’s happening in the data governance, architecture and information management areas. And, of course, big data – and what it really means and what are its implications. I’ll be keeping pace with what’s developing and thinking of the implications for our clients.
The other part I’ll focus on is thought leadership. I write a lot and also speak to groups, as well, so I’ll be coming up with new, conceptual ways of looking at data and what people are trying to do with it.
Experienced team with diverse clients
By joining the FSFP team, I’m partnering with a highly knowledgeable and experienced group of people We have a broad range of clients with very diverse needs – and that diversity is exciting. I enjoy the challenge of thinking about how can we best reach across this broad of requirements and help clients.
I’ve known Kelle O’Neal for years. We go way back to when we first met at an MDM conference. I introduced myself and we kept in contact over the years. We soon realized our shared ideas and approaches were significant and that it made great sense to be part of FSFP.
Golden age of data
Thinking back on our history, I also think about how the industry has evolved over time. I have a technical background in systems development. Back then, data was a byproduct of automation, and that has changed completely over the years. Now, we’re living in the golden age of data — where it’s central to business models of all kinds and all industries. Before, it seems people paid lip service to the importance of data, but now people are on board.
Years ago, the industry thought all data was the same — and today that’s changed. People realize there are many types of data and metadata. This increasing specialization — no more “data is all just data,” with the same handling of it — produced niches with their own special tools and techniques.
Over the last 50 years or so, there’s been organic growth in company systems and data architecture. Companies don’t even know what data they have in their production environments – where it all resides or what it means. They have problems of all sizes and, as a result, can’t effectively leverage the data for the benefit of the enterprise. They can’t unlock the value and find the true business benefits.
The rate of change and array of new challenges can be overwhelming. There’s the intersection between data and legal concerns, both regulatory and contractual. Big data has to be handled in the right way to make sense of it. But these challenges are actually exciting to me, and they keep me energized about being a consultant in this field and being able to help clients.
Defining a career in data
When people ask what I do for a living, it’s sometimes hard to explain. “Strategic data management” can sound abstract. It’s difficult to really understand our industry and, in fact, we don’t have a good theoretical foundation for it anyway. It’s not taught in schools and universities, though that’s changing some. People have a notion it’s important — privacy of information, data security breaches, etc., are familiar to them – but it’s still difficult to explain what we do.
I do come across some people who understand the industry high-level, and some that want to make a career in it. When they ask for advice about becoming a data professional, I tell them it’s good to first acquire one or two technical skills — for example, learn data modeling or SQL or get experience with a database platform. That background will serve you well in what we do — and the strategic work will usually come after those technical skills are mastered.
I do sometimes need a break from it all and for me, the great outdoors is what recharges me. My hobbies are beekeeping and gardening, and I also make my own apple cider. So when we meet someday, I’ll be excited to share either of my passions – managing data or managing bees.