I know first-hand, that the world needs, values, and rewards people – marketers and others – who can truly transform businesses and our lives with data.   My career started in marketing.  There, I learned the value of data and why it was so important in my work.  As a result, for years, I’ve positioned myself in LinkedIn as a data-vangelist (DV).   

Recently one of my marketing friends made a comment about how she wanted to be a DV when she grew up.  That made me think about exactly what I am doing as a DV.  What path could I lay out for someone who wants to take on this challenge?  

To help others understand this calling, this blog includes a DV definition and 5 things to consider doing to start becoming a Data-vangelist. 

Your Journey to Becoming a Data-vangelist Takes Solid Data Literacy

data, data scientist, analyst, marketing, analytics, data-vangelist , insights, metricsA data-vangelist is someone who sees and uses the power of data. Someone so moved by the power of that they must share with others what it can do.  As we enter the new world of artificial intelligence, blockchain and data fabric, we are beginning to see the power of data, but many still do not understand its nuances, applicability, or value. 

Data literacy for leaders is the goal of a DV.  Just as literacy for first graders is the goal of their teachers.  But what is data literacy?  According to Laura Sebastian-Coleman’s new book, Meeting the Challenges of Data Quality Management, data literacy is “the ability to read, understand, interpret, and learn from data in different contexts and the ability to communicate about data to other people.”  It includes the ability to analyze data and derive insights from the analytics. As you gain more data literacy, your analytics mastery increases; enabling your organization to leverage descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics. 

It seems simple, but the journey can have twists and turns.   

Take 5 Steps to Become a Successful Data-vangelist

Ready to embrace the data-vangelist journey? Start with these these 5 steps. data, data scientist, analyst, marketing, analytics, data-vangelist, analytics, insights, metrics

1) Commit. This means that you should consciously commit to being a leader that cares about data.  The DataLeaders, avolunteer organization that promotes all issues with data, has drafted a Manifesto.  The reason for the manifesto is stated in its first line: “Your organization’s best opportunities for organic growth lie in data.”  Read the Manifesto, sign it, and commit. Declare that you know that data is important.   Remember, all change starts with a mindset and usually a movement starts with one person.  Signing the Manifesto gives you the mindset to start your DV journey. It can be a fascinating trip. 

2) Investigate. Find out what data affects your life and your job then actively seek to learn about how it is collected, managed, and used.   Many marketing executives often make the mistake of assuming that all the information on their weekly or monthly dashboard has been curated and examined before presentation, that the data is of the highest quality.  But, what information do they actually have about the data quality?

Danette McGilvray in her new book, Executing Data Quality Projects, lists some dimensions of data quality that should be examined:  Data Integrity, accuracy, uniqueness, timeliness, access, security and privacy, coverage, usability, and decay.  What are the dimensions of your data that affect your work or your life?  Do you know the value of each of these dimensions for this data? 

For example, as a marketing executive you might be most concerned with any data associated with a customer interaction with your company.   If that’s the case, then what is the completeness and validity of customer name, email address, and permissions?  Is the data you need to market to your selected segments available in sufficient quantity to give you a substantial view of your market or to allow you the luxury of predicting next best customer actions? 

3) Question. Become a data provocateur. Tom Redman, “the Data Doc” and President-Data Quality Solutions, writes this:  Most companies and government agencies address data quality reactively, after errors are made and, as a direct result, they suffer from bad data.  To date, it has taken a special person to challenge the status quo within his or her work team, address data quality by “getting in front” of the issues, making a huge improvement, and, in effect, showing the rest of the company what is possible.  I call this person the “data provocateur.”

data, data scientist, analyst, marketing, analytics, data-vangelist, insights, metricsTo Redman and his associates, this is where leaders are required.  Leaders who question the results on a report should be reminded that they should first question the data that was used to generate the report, how it was collected, managed, analyzed, and displayed.   Don’t simply settle for questioning the report numbers themselves, question the data that created them.   

With answers to many of your questions, you can begin to understand why data is so important. But to be a true DV, you need to ensure that you can proselytize.  You must convince yourself before you can convince others.  

4) Evaluate.  The first step in convincing yourself that data is an important attribute and asset for you and your work is to evaluate all the data that contributes to your work. If you are the lead marketing person in your organization, this evaluation of data must begin, and end, with customer data.  Assess your level of confidence in that data today and then start your journey.

Evaluation of customer data may begin with just a simple “what do we have” analysis.   How many records of customers do you have?  How many are duplicates?  How many records are complete?  What is your level of completeness for marketing permissions?  Think carefully about the elements within your data that are important to you.  

Recently, in working with a not-for-profit, we discovered that gender was an element that we needed to hit the marketing goals.  However, in all the data acquisition that had been done, gender had not been captured.  

Challenges, like not having the right data, may leave your head spinning when you first do a deep dive into data. You will need to educate yourself about data quality processes if you haven’t already mastered them.  Here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself as you begin evaluating your data

  • What’s the difference between data integrity and quality? 
  • How do we really measure accuracy?

Leaders ask questions about data and the information derived from it.  Paying close attention to reporting, and the inferences drawn from the reports, is key to driving marketing efficiency and effectiveness. 

5) Pass it on.  You’re a marketer.  You know that getting your message out is a matter of the number of impressions with yourdata, data scientist, analyst, marketing, analytics, data-vangelist, insights, metrics intended audience.  That means that you, as the marketing leader, must put data at the top of your agenda.  You need to start a movement inside your organization.  Starting a movement is a process.  Take a look at this video:  Starting a movement What you learn is that it takes only one person to start and a second to follow. Without a follower, there is no movement.  Think about that when you are planning how to catapult data into the heart of your marketing efforts.

Be a part of a like-minded community.  One way is to join our community 

These 5 steps enable you commence your data-vangelist journey.  Your new role is only going to grow in the coming years as artificial intelligence, imaging, virtual reality, blockchain, , digital twins, and a host of other technologies create more data and provide quicker access to it.  The world will need even more people – marketers and others – who can truly transform businesses and our lives with insights from data.   

Welcome to the world of a data-vangelist! 

About the Author:

Theresa KushnerSolutions Lead for AI and Analytics, NTT DATA Services is passionate about AI, data analysis and how it gets applied to today’s business challenges. She has led companies – IBM, Cisco Systems, VMware, Dell/EMC – in recognizing, managing, and using the information or data that has exploded exponentially. She is the co-author of two books on data and its use in business:  Managing Your Business Data:  From Chaos to Confidence (with Maria Villar) and B2B Data-Driven Marketing:  Sources, Uses, Results (with Ruth Stevens).  




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