I am sure you are familiar with the “other duties as assigned” clause in almost all job descriptions. My experience has been that this gives you a chance to differentiate yourself in performing the mundane but necessary tasks that keep your work group operating smoothly. These duties are not the core responsibilities listed in your job description.
Beyond the standard interpretation of other duties as assigned are duties that data professionals must take on as lean staffing has become the norm. The days of data models modeling and data architects architecting are gone. Today’s data centric world requires us to go beyond those duties described in great detail in our job descriptions. Let’s take a look at a few of these duties.
Data professionals have had the reputation of being bad cops for years. Modeling data, enforcing good data design principles, normalization, assuring data integrity and reusing data across applications is not popular. Application developers just want to “get ‘er done” and intervention by non-developers just slows everything down.
Today, these tasks are not up for negotiation but required. The importance of governance with big data (no matter how you define big) is critical. Sound policing of data differentiates a big steaming heap of data dung from the well-organized megastore of value added data. Now is the time for you to flex those cop muscles and flash your data cop badge.
There have been fires in the past. There will be fires in the future. Data can be very unpredictable. Data from flat files, unstructured feeds, databases, external vendors and partners and many more sources need data professional skills to keep them from smoldering and igniting a firestorm in the business’ hands. Be prepared to work with unlikely partners other than business analysts and systems analysts. Data profilers and data transformers are two examples of invaluable partners in capturing the essence and meaning of questionable and not-so-well defined data.
Data tells a story. Data modelers and data architects need to effectively communicate that story. The types of data and the relationships between data are becoming more complex as the volume of data grows.
Data professionals need to communicate the metadata that defines the data. Data models need to be targeted to the audience. The data modeler must now go beyond a logical and physical data model with the related data dictionaries. Multiple subject areas and views of a data model that are supported by custom reports that speak to a specific audience are no longer a luxury but are now a standard operation procedure.
The underappreciated but one of the most valuable roles a data architect can perform is being a moderator during application development. The task of collecting, organizing and transforming data requirements into a database crosses many job roles and departmental boundaries. What we know about boundaries is that there is generally a good chance of conflict on the edges.
Taking on the role of the Dr. Phil of data may not be on your job description. Make no mistake; it will benefit you, your coworkers and your enterprise. Beyond the police officer and firefighter duties, your soft skills as a moderator keeps all parties communicating and working together. This collaboration is important in uncovering the true meaning of data and the true need and usage of the data.
And other duties as assigned… takes on new meaning today. The reach of technology and exponential growth of data is dragging us out of our safe sheltered data lives. It offers quite a challenge and yet offers us great opportunities to grow and offer even more value to our organizations. Job descriptions will evolve as our duties evolve. However, there will be great opportunities for us in the shadows and on the edges of these job parts. We can only succeed if we embrace and take on these duties.
Modeling Global User Community President