If I only knew then what I know now

I see myself as a pretty forward thinking person. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think about the past. My life experiences have taught me valuable lessons. The occasional flashback to the past is a good reminder of where I have been.

It’s hard to admit when you make a poor choice. Most often, it is relegated to the back recesses of the mind. Social media brought many of my buried thoughts forward this week as I attended ERworld, Dataversity and DM Radio webinars. I recognized a theme of data architects needing to change to be successful. Here are five opportunities for change that I recognize now but wish that I had known sooner.

  1. Other team members’ perspectives – I like to think that I did this. What I did was presume what their thoughts were. I presumed that their objectives were somehow in conflict with mine. I often found myself at war protecting my interests.Communication breaks down the them vs. me mentality. More time listening and talking about needs, understanding limitations, and recognizing the value brought to the table makes a better team. This behavior leads to development team members becoming increasingly involved with data architect deliverables.
  2. Data modeling is more than an ERD – For a good part of my data career, I saw the entity relationship diagram (ERD) as my key contribution to projects. I spent many hours making the data model a work of art. I am not alone. I encounter many a data architect who spends little or no effort beyond the boxes and lines.Although the ERD remains a prominent piece of a data architect’s work, duties such as metadata management and data governance have a big impact on the corporate data asset. The volume of data is ever increasing. The need to slice, dice and analyze is no longer a nice to have. The single data source has been replaced with structured and unstructured data from all directions. These are issues that go beyond the ERD that need the data architect’s attention.
  3. The need to be a more adaptive person – I came into the data world in the height of the CASE tool and structure analysis and design era. This had real impact on how I saw data administration. Painfully long data modeling exercises in islands of technical expertise were the norm.The adaptive data architect knows how to balance standards and structured processes with the demands of the project team, technology and the business world. Data modeling is a legacy from the CASE era and most methodologies including agile design contain components of structured analysis and design. The savvy data architect knows how adapt their work to meet the demands of the current world.
  4. I played the victim card too often – The lament of the misunderstood data architect can be heard at data conferences and user community meetings. Why do they not listen to ME? Why do they not involve ME in the project? Why don’t they give ME enough time to model? Sound familiar? The key word is indeed ME. Too often my effort was placed on what I did with little attention to what I could do for others and understanding the value I could bring to the projects.I like the saying “Be part of the change you want to see”. This means that the savvy data architect takes the lead in making the changes that integrates themselves in the team. It is about communicating better and being more adaptive.
  5. The need to read more and learn more. I have always been a believer in keeping my knowledge current. I did that for the tools and methods in my data world. I did not go beyond those walls to learn more about other methods and IT trends. For many years I concentrated on a highly technical data-focused education track.Today I find myself reading more and learning more about the technology world far beyond my data realm. Soft skill training in relationships, teamwork and working across levels of authority and management need to be in the modern data architects learning plan. I cannot emphasize enough the need to embrace social networking and become part of the Twitterverse, LinkedIn technology groups and technology webinars. Today’s education world is far beyond the traditional classroom setting.

Tom Bilcze

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