Sarah Marshall, Director of Data and Information Governance at British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), speaks with Maria Espona, Professor, ArgIQ and CDO Magazine Editorial Board Member, in a video interview about the evolving profile of data and analytics leaders, cultivating leadership, the importance of data literacy, organizational data literacy programs, the data roadmap and its implementation, and the need for a data governance framework.
BCLC has been delivering exceptional entertainment to British Columbians by managing casinos, lottery, bingo, and sports betting. ArgIQ is a civil association without profit that has as its objective the diffusion, through academic activities, of the methodology of quality of information in Argentina and Spanish-speaking countries.
At the onset, Marshall discusses the evolving profile of a data and analytics leader. She recounts her experience and shares how she started on the business side in the banking industry, as a business analyst before transitioning into a system analyst in the IT team.
Marshall says that while technical knowledge in data space is valued, the profile of a data leader is shifting towards having great communication skills and business acumen. A data and analytics leader needs to be able to speak the technical data and business language.
Adding on, she says that storytelling and marketing are also a part of the role, along with having passion and energy for the work. Marshall asserts that data and analytics are coming into the limelight and data leaders not only need to help temper the hype cycle but also bring passion and energy to the table.
Moving forward, she opines that no university teaches leadership. To cultivate leadership, one must spend time in the business, be curious, and meet people, says Marshall. She advises data professionals to spend time in non-data roles to be well-rounded while transitioning into leadership roles.
When asked about data literacy, Marshall affirms that if the people having access to dashboards cannot read, interpret, communicate, and argue with data, then it is a lost affair. She vouches for the hard work of data professionals and says that it will be tragic to put effort into getting the data to colleagues who cannot derive meaningful insights from it.
Adding on, Marshall states that the workforce and society have become technologically literate over the past 30 years, and now it is time to be data literate. Delving further, she mentions enabling the transition in her organization through a data literacy program.
In addition to training and courses, a large part of the learning happens on the job, says Marshall.
According to her, the alignment of data and analytics strategy and corporate strategy is critical. Referring to her experience at BCLC, Marshall affirms that the organization developed both the corporate strategy and enterprise data strategy concurrently.
Sarah Marshall | Director of Data and Information Governance, British Columbia Lottery Corporation
One of the key tenets that was stated explicitly is that data is a business asset, not a technology asset, says Marshall. She shares that the organization had business stakeholders co-author the data strategy with data leaders.
Therein, the stakeholders translated the strategic business objectives from the corporate strategy into the data and analytics needs that they require to execute their objectives. This led to the development of business-driven data priorities.
Furthermore, Marshall shares that data strategies are no longer developed in a vacuum in the IT department. Rather, the new data strategy weighs towards non-technical data and analytic elements.
She states the need for a deliberate push in treating data as an enterprise asset and bringing along non-technical components like data ethics, literacy, and organizational change management. The point is to bring data to the masses that do not have ‘data’ in their title and ensure that they understand their roles as data citizens.
When asked about the roadmap, Marshall maintains that it is easy to build a roadmap, but difficult to implement one. Commenting on the roadmap of BCLC, she mentions that firstly, the organization worked with business stakeholders to define target data culture. Then it developed business-driven data priorities and target operating models to build the data culture.
Thereafter, Marshall shares that 31 data capabilities were identified which have been grouped into 16 data initiatives and plotted into a three-year implementation roadmap.
In the context of the data governance framework, she affirms being biased as a data governance leader. She states that prior to her arrival, data-related risks were being handled inconsistently. Data governance provides the much-needed structure to the process, says Marshall.
She adds that the defensive risk mitigation side of the data practice is balanced with the offensive and strategic aspirations of the business. Further, Marshall notes that data quality is a critical component to managing data risk, considering the massive cost of running operations with poor data.
In conclusion, Marshall states that data quality also impacts the insights and analytics component. She confirms that data quality is critical as organizations move towards automated decision-making technologies.
CDO magazine appreciates Sarah Marshall for sharing her insights with our global community.