"I've never seen an organization that understands the cost, value, and benefit of their information assets." Follow me as I speak with James Price, a black belt in information asset management.
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[00:00:00] Loris Marini: Information is the unacknowledged and undervalued 4th asset class organizations do not realise the value of effective information management can add to their bottom line. These are not my words, but the words of my guest today, James Price, James has over 30 years of experiencing the information industry.
He is internationally recognized as an author and a presenter. He's the founder of Experience Matters, a firm that helps organisations protect and maximize the value of their data, information and knowledge. He's a work with the university of South Australia as tremendous and the research he produced as groundbreaking, I believe it was a Stuart Hamilton of Aquatic Informatics that wrote, "I do believe that you have documented the greatest single barrier to productivity in the 21st century economy, and nobody knows about it."
James is a true multi-domain expert. His expertise ranges from business management, strategic planning and governance, as well as finance, sales and people management. And of course at the center of all of all, this is the management of information bullet. So I'm super stoked to have you on the podcast, James, welcome to The Data Project.
[00:01:18] James Price: Thank you very much for having me I'm honored.
[00:01:21] Loris Marini: So where should we start today? I would take the easy route. Let's try this. What is an information asset and why information is an asset in the first place?
[00:01:35] James Price: So the way we think about this Loris is that, and this comes from that from an economics perspective. So I'm an economist by profession. Um, that kind of makes me pretty dull actually, doesn't it.
So we as economists think about the assets and resources that we have in our organizations and how we go about deploying those assets and resources in order to conduct the business of the organization. So we have fundamentally for assets. This comes from the early economists who described the means of production as land, labor, capital, and enterprise.
If we, in modern economy economics and as business managers think about that, the four fundamental assets that we have are our physical assets (that equates to the land), our human assets (our good people), are financial assets (which equates to the capital), and lastly, the data information and knowledge assets, which enables innovation and entrepreneurship and enterprise.
So when we look at intangible assets, there are also elements in intangible assets that include relationship, capital, goodwill, brand awareness, those sorts of things, but they tend to be outputs of the process, they tend to be assets that you create from doing the work.
When we sit on the beach in January and we think about what we're going to do for the coming year, we think about what's our annual budget going to be, what good people do we have in our organizations, do we need to purchase or deploy any further infrastructure.
And what's our IP, what's our data, information and knowledge and how are we going to deploy those assets as efficiently and effectively as possible? So when we talk about information assets, we do not distinguish between data, documents, content, knowledge. We look at the entire asset as an asset that needs to be managed efficiently and effectively in order to be able to drive business outcomes.
[00:03:50] Loris Marini: That's brilliantly said. And it makes me think of the two sides of the coin. One is the strategic aspect of information, and the fact that you can use it to devise a plan under uncertainty, which is what strategy is, and the other side of the coin, which is the risk associated with it. And I know that you write a lot about the second aspect of risk. Why is there a risk to it?
[00:04:21] James Price: There's a risk associated firstly, with the information itself. So if, if we look at the concern, globally, around cyber security, which is significant, the risk of losing data, information and knowledge, whether it's thieved by external malicious actors, whether it's simply misplaced or lost by inadvertent employees, or whether you have somebody in the organization who is absolutely invaluable to you, and they walk out the door at five o'clock this evening and don't come back.
So there is a risk associated with the asset itself, but the other side of that particular coin is that you cannot manage risk without having good information. So as an example, here in Australia, we had an oil and gas company that blew up its production plant, and they could not find the drawings from which they had built the original plant. So they had to send a truck up to pick up the burnt and twisted metal off the ground. That was the result of the explosion.
Take it to the nearest capital city, reverse engineer the components, put the new bits back on the truck and then rebuild the plant from that, from that. Now that was a very expensive operation that did not have to happen because if they had been able to find the drawings from which they had built the plant in the first place, they simply would have been able to build those components from the drawings.
By not having access to that information they self-injected risk. Another example is an energy producer, where a project manager gave to an excavator driver a site plan. But the site plan was obsolete and did not have the whereabouts of an 11,000 volt cable. As the excavator driver was working the excavator penetrated the plastic coating on the outside of this 11,000 volt cable.
So two centimeters lower and that excavator driver would have been incinerated. There is enormous risk in not being able to find the right information at the right time. I could sit here for an hour until just tell you stories about why this stuff is so important. So being able to find the right information or have the right information being made available to the right people at the right time is very important, but we tend to not to do that very well.
[00:07:04] Loris Marini: Yeah. So let's dive in a little bit more on the second part. What's the status of information management in Australia and in the world? Because you've done global research as well. How do you see it?
[00:07:18] James Price: Well, when I look at how information assets are being managed and I, and I compare them with how the other assets are being managed, firstly, and most importantly, boards, directors will ask to see the financial statements. And they'll ask to see those financial statements, every single board meeting, every single month.
Now, how often does a board ask to see the information reports? Never. They don't even know what it is. So how can they have a handle on the management of this critical business asset if they, if they don't have an understanding of how well or how badly it's being managed?
If you take that down to the next level, there is no such thing as a Chief Information Officers, I've never met one. Chief Information Officers tend to be IT managers, they tend not to have somebody at very senior levels who are truly accountable for managing those information assets, for the quality of the data. So we find that with a Chief Financial Officer, as an example, that person will be sacked if he or she mismanages the money and they will likely be jailed if they misappropriated. Looking at the management of information assets nobody is being held accountable like that.
So at the next step, if you don't have anybody being held accountable, then nobody is going to be held responsible for developing a framework to manage the information assets. So just like money, it's inappropriate to record expenditure in multiple places in the general ledger. There's one source of truth.
There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be having one source of truth with information as well. And yet those frameworks aren't being built, the tools like records policies, or cybersecurity policies, tend not to be imposed and adhered to.
So, as an example, Loris, I was asked to present at the Governance Institute's annual conference last year. I ask asked the question, how many of you people have some sort of information policy, cyber policy, your records policy, whatever. Almost every hand went up round of applause, everybody happy.
The next question was how many of you work for an organization in which that policy is diligently enforced with good behavior rewarded and bad behavior discouraged? And only two people put their hands up, and they're both from ICAC in Queensland. There is no imposition and compliance with the fundamental tools by which we manage the information assets in our organizations. So the last part of this answer Loris is that ...
Let's say we have a physical asset, like a truck, we buy it, we buy a Kenworth for a million dollars. The truck has a value. Now after five years fully depreciated the book value is zero, but the market value is the price that somebody is prepared to pay for a secondhand truck. So there's a value to the asset. So there's a cost of the asset, there's a value to the asset, but there's also a benefit that's associated with that asset.
So in the case of the truck there's 15 years of productive life that's going to help generate income. Now information assets are exactly the same. They have a cost, they have a value, and there's benefit associated with managing them well. I've never seen an organization that understands the cost and the value and the benefit of their information assets.
So when you ask me, how will information assets are being managed globally? Not very well.
[00:11:11] Loris Marini: I find this part is super interesting. I guess we could go two ways now. One is the behavioral part and how do we make sure that information is managed as an asset once the board understands it, and the other part is more of a philosophical one I suppose but it has direct impact on the bottom line to it.
I'm gonna start with the second and then we go back to the governance bit. I spent quite a bit of time studying information in the context of telecommunications. You know, you have a service provider, you have a device, whether it's mobile or on land, and what you're doing as an information engineer you're trying to maximize the information flow between the two.
And we do all sorts of crazy stuff that it's mostly mathematics-heavy kind of domain. You have to work out the channel and change the encoding, reduce the noise, remove interference, there are so many things that are involved, but it's a one-to-one system. It's very transactional in a way you pay your service provider monthly or yearly, and they give you bandwidth for your communications.
So it ends there. You're not storing that information, you are not going back to it, it's one way. It's similar to the truck in a way, you buy the truck, you use it, then you sell it. If for any reason you lose the truck, you can buy a new truck, right. You can replace, you can purchase that asset again with information is often not the case, is it?
[00:12:54] James Price: Information is precisely the opposite in some ways. It's incredibly important. I mean, if you look at every business activity, every business process, every business decision Information is involved in that activity or process or decision. And yet, it's the only asset that cannot be replaced if it's lost, so you can replace money, you can replace people, you can replace property and infrastructure, but if you're with one of your best people walks out this afternoon, you've lost them forever.
Or if you lose your data, as in the case of that oil and gas company, you've lost it forever. Now, there is an associated cost with rebuilding that data and in their case they rebuilt the data from picking up the bits of burns and twisted metal, but it's a terribly valuable asset that is very hard to replace.
Doug Laney tells a great story. When the Twin Towers came down in New York, the insurance claims started flooding in, what was it that the insurance companies paid for? What did they pay out? Well, they paid out for the hardware and the software. They refused to pay for the, for the replacement of the data, or the loss of the data.
And I suppose if I was to be nice about this, I'd say they didn't know what the value of the data was. If I'm going to be a bit more cynical, I'd say, well they knew the data was extremely valuable and is was going to cost them an absolute fortune. So it is an asset that's worth protecting.
The other thing about data that's that is slightly different from the Kenworth is that it can be used over and over again by multiple people at the same time. Now you can't do that with a truck. The other thing is that a truck will wear out, whereas it's the opposite with information. The more you use the information, the more valuable it becomes, the more benefit that you derive from it.
So when Facebook had a hundred users, it was worth nothing. When it had a thousand users, it was worth nothing when it had a million years it started to get up there, now it's got up a couple of billion. So the more we use the information and the, and the environment the better.
[00:15:24] Loris Marini: And this is where most of the analogies break down. Cause you hear people say information it's like electricity or it's like water or, well, let's not touch the new oil thing because it's, it's an inflammatory topic LOL.
[00:15:36] James Price: Yes.
[00:15:36] Loris Marini: at some one says oh it's like wine. You know, you have a good bottle of wine, you live it there. You know, the longer you wait, the better it gets if you, uh, if you do it properly. And, but you can never really make an analogy that fully encapsulates what information is I believe because it's like watching it from different angles. It's like this complex geometrical shape, depending on where you see it. If you see it from one angle, it looks like wine, but unlike wine, if you drink the bottle, the bottle is gone, with information you can reuse it over and over.
[00:16:09] James Price: Yeah, that is, that is very true. And I do like the wine analogy so that when you go to a, and this is where we draw the distinction between information-technology and the information that the information-technology delivers...
When you go to a restaurant and you buy a glass of wine, what are you buying? You are buying the wine, or you're buying the glass? And the answer is, of course you're buying the wine. The glass is a delivery mechanism. You've got to have it. It's a symbiotic relationship without the glass. You go up to the bar and they pour it into your hands. That doesn't happen. So you get your wines served in a glass.
Now it might be a beautiful or ideal glass. So the infrastructure, the delivery infrastructure may be beautiful. But if the quality of the wine is poor, if the wine is vinegar, you're going to have a bad experience. So it's terribly important to differentiate between IT (Information Technology) and IM (Information Management). And if we give the responsibility for the management of the data, for the quality of the data to the guys in IT, as most organizations do, they're setting their IT guys up for failure.
Because IT is measured on throughput and uptime and possibly on usability, but that's about it. It's funded on the basis of hardware and software acquisition. Whereas it's the data that's important. It's the data upon which you make the business decisions, not the version of the Cisco router that delivers it, or the model of the Cisco router that delivers.
[00:17:51] Loris Marini: It's also important, right? It's also, as you said, the infrastructure is there and it's an important part of it but it's, it doesn't end there. It's just a vehicle.
[00:17:59] James Price: It is, and it's a rapidly depreciating asset. So IT depreciates very, very quickly as opposed to the data, which if it's used properly, increases in value. So if you're there and again, just coming back to how unfair it is to ask IT to be responsible for the data.
If you're the chief legal counsel of your organization, do you know more about the practice of law than IT does? You'd hope so. Do you know more about what data, information and knowledge is required to practice law than IT does? Again, you'd hope so. Are you more interested in the quality of that data, information and knowledge than IT is? Of course you are.
So why on earth would we even consider given the responsibility for the management of the data, to the poor guys in IT, who are smart and helpful and lovely people, but they're just not set up to manage this stuff properly.
So when the business says, no we're not going to manage the data. We're going to leave that to you guys in IT, it's a fundamental abdication of responsibility. And this is where this is where boards and the most senior leadership team needs to be very firm with their organizations about the value of their organization's information and about how it gets managed.
And again, there's a symbiotic relationship between IT and the management of the data, but you can't ask IT to do it. It's just not fair.
[00:19:32] Loris Marini: No. And I think this requires almost a leap at a cognitive level, you know, the understanding that information is an asset that should be managed as such and not just a by-product of the business operations. And I felt that in real life, you know, I was involved in projects that were designed to bring data together into a source of truth.
It was exciting because that's what I wanted really to do, but then when it came to deciding whether to allocate funding for the next bit of the process or cat corners and just get it done and tic the box I saw business leaders taking the second route unfortunately, and I was there shouting that data is a shared responsibility, you can expect that a single data engineer can own the quality of information within the organization. I was sacked for that.
So it's in a way it's good to see that my ideas wear not that far-fetch and on the other though I am worried because if business leaders don't understand the importance of this asset then well, there's going to be an impact on the bottom line, that's for sure. There's going to be an impact in terms of efficiency and resilience. When market changes, when commute competitors pop up. So it's going to affect it for sure, but it's also gonna affect the people that work in the business.
And The Data Project is all about to the people side of data out, uh, data through a human lens. And I felt that, I can testify that it does not feel good to work in an organization that does not help people that need information to get it. If that environment is not set up properly... And so now we dive into the governance and the reward system, I suppose. What happens is that people need to get the job done anyways.
Right? So they'll use whatever data that they can get their hands on. And so decisions are sort of made randomly with a mix of gut feeling and a sprinkle of data. We can do a hell of a lot better than that, especially if you are, if you're trying to disrupt an existing market and if you are a startup and, or maybe a scale up, and you try to change how people do things, data should be the center of your concern and everything else should be sort of managed and planned around it.
The quality of data and information depends on so many factors that are not under the full control of the factory, of the warehouse, right? In a winery, you typically have lots of ways to measure the acidity, the temperature, you have a way to control all of these parameters, it's going to cost you for sure, but you can do it.
With information is often not the case because, as you said, different domains have experts in different areas. And they will interact with the data in their own way. And inevitably make changes to it, make copies, use it, manipulate it, interpret it. Every time we interact with it we change it. And so the governance piece in the behavioral part is, is crucial.
So how can an organization implement. A a system that ensures that people don't feel watched over like the big brother, you know, "you're not supposed to touch that data set!" So I want to feel good about my work, I want to be productive and efficient, but at the same time, I want to know that what I'm doing is not jeopardizing my future self or my teammates.
[00:23:22] James Price: There are about four stories I can tell you here, and they're all good. Let's stay with the wine company. We've done a couple of projects with a wine company in Australia. And the first was with a little tiny winery down in McLaren Vale. Now, that little organization had 34 staff and it started with me riding a pushbike with the bloke who ran the winery.
And we did some really simple stuff. We had to look at what the business actually does, we looked at the language of the organization, and we built some naming conventions. We also gave them some email guidelines because like every organization they were drowning in email. If an email came in, to somebody, anybody, in the organization, that person knew what to call it, where to put it, how to find that again, in an efficient and effective manner.
Loris the point is that this does not have to be an all-singing-all-dancing orientation of software. This is behavior and it requires corporate discipline. Last year they asked us to give them a hand to value some data, some harvest and yield data. They invested in valuing that data, they sold that data, they broke-even in 13 weeks and over three years they will drive a 1200% return on investment. So we were working with the same guy, Greg, and we'd done the benefits realization, he said, "James, there is no other investment in our entire portfolio that could have driven a great return more quickly with better staff satisfaction."
Now, Loris, that's the kind of stuff we get out of bed for. When we get guys who aren't even in the back office, they're in the winery missing about with the pumps and the tanks are the winemakers and they stop you in the carpark of their headquarters and say, "this is fantastic, we can find stuff", you know, that's a lovely thing to have been able to help.
So in order to manage information assets will, you've got to have the governance in place. You've got to have the incentives in place, but you've also got to be able to demonstrate the value to the business.
And that is that that is going to be not only at Chief Financial Officer level, but also the value to each and every person in the organization. Because if you're going to make it hard for them to do their jobs, they'll just find workarounds. So it is about doing some simple stuff and getting some quick wins. It is about putting the right accountability and responsibility in place, the same way we do in the management of our financial assets.
But also demonstrating the values to each and every individual in their terms as to what the benefit of doing this stuff well is.
Now I'll tell you another story. 11 or 12 years ago, the state bank of India started collaborating with assurance Australia group. They created a business called SBI general and they were selling AIG's general insurance policies to the savings and loans account holders of the state bank of Indi. They got the organization to the point where they were selling 1.7 million new general insurance policies. 1.7 million a month. I mean, it was just astonishing.
And I said to the director of information for the organization, they had not yet appointed a chief executive, and Anthony got the opportunity to talk to the board. He said "what do you guys do?" And the board said, "Well, Anthony, you idiot, we're an insurance company."
And Anthony said, "Well, what does an insurance company do?" And the board said, "Well, we price risk". "How do you go about pricing that risk?" And the board said, "Well, what we need is information about a particular situation, the context, upon which we can take a financial position."
And Anthony said, "So we're not an insurance company are we? We're an information management company participating in the insurance industry, and the only asset of any value in this entire organization is an understanding about the customer and that customer's particular position. So we need good data about that, about the customer."
The first thing the board did was they said to the incoming chief executive "we're going to give you some KPIs around the quality of the data, we're going to measure that, we're going to incentivize you, we're going to give you a bloody great bonus if you succeed, and we're going to sack you if you fail." Within a week, every branch in SBI general was offered a thousand USD, which is a lot of money in India, to be spread equally across every branch member, if they could get the quality of the data up.
And they were measured on really simple stuff: customer first name, customer last name, customer telephone number. And overnight the quality of that data went from 68% to 93%, and as a result, the organization was spectacularly effective and successful. So there's two stories there of really simple things that could be done in order to drive an improvement in the quality of the data and the effectiveness of the organization.
[00:29:02] Loris Marini: Yeah and awareness it's a crucial part because if you're not aware of the problem, why should you try and solve the problem in the first place? There's no problem! And the first step should really be taking a hard look across the organization, taking sort of a slice that cuts through every department and every domain, and try to understand: what are people doing? how do they work? what type of information they use and what are the quick wins to improve the whole process?
In this aspect, I know that Experience Matters, your firm, does a lot of work around this. What is your approach? How do you approach this?
[00:29:47] James Price: Well, Loris, you've put your finger on it. If you don't know where you are and you don't know where you're going to go, how can you possibly put in place the roadmap to get there? So we actually start with where do you want to go.
And the reason why we start with where do you want to go is because if you think that way you become unfettered by your existing environment, then you work out where you currently are. And from there you do the gap analysis, that's pretty simple.
It's really important to understand what the barriers to effective information asset management are. Because if you don't understand what those barriers are, it makes it really hard. To put in place the therapeutic initiatives in order to be able to look at that.
Now we've worked with academic institutions around the, around the globe to look at what the barriers are to effective information management. And from that, we've been able to say, well, we need to be able to address these issues that keep tumbling out from our lists of very senior executives. We use a maturity assessment or a health.
Coming back to the presentation I did for the governance Institute. "When I said, do you have a policy that allows you to look at how information is being managed?" Yes. "Is that policy adhered to?" No. So the question then becomes, well, why have you gone to the effort of building a policy and then not implementing the thing?
And the answer is because management just doesn't care.
Why don't they care? Because nobody is being held accountable. There is nobody like the Chief Executive of SBI general who's being held accountable by the board for the quality of the data.
Why is there no accountability? Because the executive doesn't understand the value of their data and the cost of managing their data, and the benefit of doing it well.
Why don't they understand that? Well, because they're not measuring it.
Why aren't they measuring it? Because they don't have a justification model that allows you to record the value of the data. You cannot look at the data and put it on the balance sheet. The only way you can do that is to sell the data, and then you scratch your head and say, crack, we better do something with this... too late.
Why don't you have a justification model? Because organizations don't want to exploit the information assets that they have in their organizations. Why don't they want to do that? Well, because the quality of the data doesn't allow them to do so.
Why isn't the quality of the data good enough? Because the individual behaviors are poor...
[00:32:29] Loris Marini: So it's a circle.
[00:32:30] James Price: So it's a circle. So if we can address those issues, or if we can ask hard questions about those issues, then we can address them Loris. We had just a wonderful experience about three weeks ago, where. We've got a fabulous client for whom we would walk over hot coals.
These guys are just terrific. And we sit to the bloke, who's effectively the chief executive. We said, Greg, another Greg, you are the most junior person in this organization to whome the directors of each of the divisions report. You are able to impose standards and behaviors, and you're the most junior person in the organization who's able to do that.
So with your permission, we are going to make you accountable for the quality of the data. Is that okay? And he said, hell yeah. And he said, we're going, what we're going to do is we are in the middle of finalizing our key result areas, key performance indicators. And what we want to do is we want to build the management of the data and the quality of the data into this organization.
And, and I want to be held accountable and I'm going to hold my entire organization accountable. It's another example of an organization where they really taking it seriously and effectively. Whoever it is, is making the chief executive the true Chief Information Officer and being accountable for the quality of the data.And these organizations will both be howlingly successful because they're that they are really paying attention to it.
[00:34:07] Loris Marini: Yeah.
[00:34:07] James Price: Now we've got a lot more work to do with this client, but the hard work is done because we've got a bloke who's the chief executive say "Yeah. I'm going to hold myself accountable or I'm going to have the organization hold me accountable for the quality of the data and I am going to make it happen." Brilliant. I mean, just absolutely brilliant.
[00:34:30] Loris Marini: And also it makes a lot of sense because I mean, one of the biggest challenges of CEOs are often coordinating all the C-level leaders, right? And data is the common denominator to every single operation, every single decision. So if you were looking for a way to get everybody on board and excited about the work that they do together as an organism, not just a number of organs put together, then data could be that common thread.
And I find, I find that really interesting.
[00:35:04] James Price: Yeah, Loris, you are right. Look at customer data. Customer data is used by us in marketing, in selling, in the project delivery, it's used by us in accounts receivable. So here is information that is used right across the organization.
[00:35:27] Loris Marini: It trickles down right?
[00:35:29] James Price: Yeah. And so it is the lifeblood of the organization. It's just like the arterial system of your body, it flows around the organization. Well, the organism in this case, it flows around and, and delivers life. It's it's incredibly important.
I'm going to, I'm going to tell you a bad story. Now we've got another client. I think it's important to hear the bad stories, as well as the good, you actually learn in some ways more from the bad story. So this is an organization. It is a state government department. They smashed three government departments together. And that was three years ago. They're still using different email systems still using, using different websites, still have different cultures within their organization, and they think that they can create a high-performing efficient, effective, cohesive, culturally attractive organization by installing a piece of finance software, HR software and document management software.
And you just think this has got to be a total failure. Anyway, the point that I'm making here is that there are plenty of organizations that do not think about their information assets as a strategic business resource, they do not recognize the value of that resource, they don't value the contribution made by the people who are responsible for setting up the information management environment.
Now, there's a department of correctional services in Australia in 2018 they accidentally released more than 30 prisoners out into the community prematurely, and they had one guy incarcerated for five years longer than that should have. Their holding case data, their case management is being held in Microsoft calendar.
Really and truly, and the tasks in the job descriptions of the information managers, and they've got eight in the department include answering telephones, filling photocopiers with paper and removing staples. These poor people are responsible for the management of this critical business asset, and that's the level of recognition and reward and support they get.
There was a another government department, it was an electoral commission of one of the states, one of the states of Australia and this literal commission released a job description for a records manager. And one of the tasks of this individual was buying the milk.
The records management community read this and went absolutely ballistic. I mean, they were apoplectic with rage. How dare this organization, trivialize the work that they do. And they hammered away at their keyboards for about three days until finally I got sick of it and I wrote to them.
And I said "Listen, you lot, Australia has led the world in records management practice for decades. We built what became adopted and adapted by the, by the ISO standards to become ISO 15489 way back in 1996, we as records managers really understand some fundamental things like functional classification, how to relate the information assets back to the business, so just to demonstrate value. We really very good at this." And I said, "If you people have failed to educate your executive, it's your fault." Anyway, I got taken off to this sermon.
[00:39:26] Loris Marini: Well, speaking of resonances right, and matches. That's an example of a place where you don't necessarily want to work. So what is the ideal company / customer for Experience Matters?
[00:39:38] James Price: Look, we want to work with organizations that are big enough to have a problem, but a small enough to be able to deal with it. Now we've worked with organizations with five staff that they've recognized that they've got a lot of information at their disposal, and they're not managing it well.
Once you get over a certain size it gets very hard to get to the right people. So we look for organizations that are big enough to have a problem, but are small enough to be able to deal with it. We're also gonna find somebody in that organization who wants to drive business outcomes. There's no point doing anything unless there's going to be a business benefit from it.
So what is the business benefit? What do you want to drive now? If you're Uber and you want to smash the taxi industry, well then you just make it easy for somebody who doesn't have a car, but needs to go somewhere to find somebody who's got a car and can take somebody somewhere, and put that information together.
Now the taxi industry has had all of that, but what Uber did was genuine digital transformation, where they were looking at customer centricity and frictionless business. It is very, very easy to get onto your phone and order and take and pay for and Uber trip. And they've murdered the taxi industry simply because they've used their information better.
Now boards should ask themselves if we were, instead of the board of this company, the board of our most aggressive competitor, what would we do to smash our company? What information do we need to stop ourselves from being on the front page of the daily paper, or suffering reputational damage, or not being able to recover from a disaster, or not being able to comply with the regulatory and legislative framework within which we operate, or not being able to get product to market fast enough, how do we manage this information better so that we can succeed?
So we need to find people in organizations that want to drive those business outcomes, and they've gotta be senior enough in the organization to effect lasting change.
If you get that, then, what you can have is make make somebody accountable. We are going to delegate true responsibility to people who understand the importance of information to their businesses or to them as individuals, and manage it well. We are going to do things like strive for a single source of truth, so we don't have stuff splattered all over team sites, in SharePoint or Teams or whatever.
We've got a single source of truth for the information. We know what it is, where it is, how to go about finding it. It can be found by different people for different purposes in the same organization. If I'm looking for our ideal organization, it's an organization that wants to take this stuff seriously.
On the other hand, the organizations that we don't want to work with, if I can be brutally honest, are organizations that don't pay attention to this stuff. They just want to put in a bit of software. It can't possibly succeed. So, no, we don't want to work with them.
[00:42:48] Loris Marini: Yeah. Yeah. And unfortunately there's a lot of hype around the latest , greatest machine learning and artificial intelligence, but you gotta be ready for that stuff. That's the last mile. If you don't have any infrastructure to deliver information reliably at scale, that's going to be really little ROI from any tactical ad hoc, kind of efforts like building a new chat bot.
And I know a lot of friends of mine that work as data scientists, the way that I've seen science being dine in organizations does not resonate with me. I think it's pointless to take an Excel sheet that comes in at midnight and trying to build this super complicated recommendation algorithm because first you're not sure of the quality of the input, so you can't obviously be sure about the quality of the output. That's just basic thinking.
But then there's the piece of usability and human-centric design. I'm a big fan of Brian O'Neil, I follow his podcast if you haven't heard of him I would strongly recommend checking his Experiencing Data podcast.
He's just great, you know, he's focused on this human aspect of design and now that matters because eventually adoption is going to be a function of how much friction people feel. So all that policy that you mentioned before, you can have this messy 500 pages document that details exactly what should be done with information, but ultimately there's people that need to behave according to the policy and the procedures.
And that behavior is now going to be dictated by a conscious cognitive process. You don't sit there in front of your laptop thinking, okay, now I'm going to just make sure that I remember everything that was written in that policy document, and I'm gonna make sure that i follow exactly all the recommendations, it's just doesn't happen because it's going to take you a week to do that.
It's often too complicated, written in a language that does not resonate with you, the why is not clear. So there is another aspect here that really fascinates me is how do we go from, well once we establish awareness and there's a CEO that is ready to make things happen, it's a wonderful process the one of translating the idea "Here's what we want to g in terms of information management, now how do we get there?"
So many different people that need to be involved in the conversation and we need to talk to them. We need to really focus on this conversational aspect, understand what they want, understand what their expectations are, what their struggles are and include them in a change system that makes them feel better and save more time.
If I was the CEO, I would want my people to go back home and have more time to spend with their kids. As you said before, don't feel crushed and stressed every day because they spent like three hours trying to find an Excel file, and they realize only a week later that it exists in six different versions, and they are only aware of three versions, God knows where the other three are.
How can you work like that?
[00:46:01] James Price: Yeah. You've made a couple of a number of really good points. Who would want to work for an organization that is backward? I tell your story. In 1983 I was a jackaroo out in the Bush on a motorbike chasing sheep and cattle around paddocks for literally months on end.
In 1984, I was working for IBM in Sydney. And the first thing that IBM taught us, and this is 1994, they said garbage-in garbage-out. When I look at the education that is being delivered by the universities around the globe, it's all about things like data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, digital twins.
It's all very nice. But if you've got crap going in, you're going to have crap coming out. There are a terrific quote by a bloke who is the Chief Executive of a big health organization in Portland, in Oregon, in the states. And he said, "Jim" and Loris I hate being called Jim. He said, "Jim, I've invested in technology to the point where I can receive crap at the speed of light".
It was absolutely absolutely fantastic, but you're right. I mean, the thing is, Loris, that we're not teaching our graduates about quality data. We're teaching them how to take what is assumed to be quality data and do smart things with it. And that's great, but it's, you're relevant if your data quality is rubbish.
So at some stage somebody needs to be the data laundry. And we need to be able to clean up the data so that it is in great shape so that we can drive the business outcomes that that little winery drove. So that we can drive the business outcomes that SBI general drove really significant business outcomes because you've got high quality data and you can start doing it really simply.
So that's a really important point. The other really important point that I want to pick up on is your comment about this being a people business. It is a people business. This stuff affects every minute of every day of every person's life in a business environment, because they're dealing with emails that are coming in, they're dealing with Word documents or Excel spreadsheets or reports that they're writing or whatever.
It is a very personal thing. And by and large people take pride in their work, they want to be respected, they want to do great work, they want to want to make good decisions, they want to be professional. And if the organization is preventing them from being professional, by not paying attention to the data information and knowledge assets that that organization has, then there's a real. They can't do the work.
So there was a, again, I can't tell you who this is, but there's a fabulous little company in south Australia. The board said to the Chief Executive, what is your single greatest business risk?
[00:49:17] Loris Marini: Hmm.
[00:49:18] James Price: And the chief executive said, I've got an employee who is absolutely fantastic, if we lose Lu we're in trouble. So the chair of the board said to the chief executive double Lu's salary on Monday. And that started to create a bit of difficulty because at that stage, Lu was going to be paid more than the chief executive.
[00:49:45] Loris Marini: Hm.
[00:49:46] James Price: So the chief executive started, what we were doing was doubling, is doubling his salary.
The chief executive started to kick the chair said "Look, it's like this. I can get another one to you tomorrow. I can't get another Lu." So, you know, again, coming back to the value that data, information and knowledge delivers, and also the risk of losing that data information and knowledge is really significant. And other thing we, you know, we talk about cybersecurity, everybody foams at the mouth about cybersecurity.
I'll tell you a great story, a bad story. A very good personal friend of mine is, is a managing partner. Was until recently the managing partner of a law firm, this law firm had a big matter being conducted in Brisbane, the partner who was leading that matter, decided that he needed ready access to the information that he needed. Went into work with a bloody great disc drive, plugged it into the server, downloaded everything got onto the airplane, no encryption, no password protection, lost the drive. Now it took three, three months of three managing partners' time to resolve.
A couple of years ago, I don't know whether you remember this, but there was a thing called the cabinet papers, department of prime minister and cabinet sold two filing cabinets. Sold it to a second hand shop.
Someone turned up, bought the two filing cabinets. They'd lost the keys of course, this bloke drew the locks out, had to look at what was inside, said to the ABC "I've got some pretty interesting information here". The ABC did not disclose the nature of that information, but within 48 hours, three prime ministers had taken action.
Malcolm Turnbull ordered an immediate investigation. Tony Abbott weighed in and said, heads must roll, and Kevin Rudd instigated legal proceedings in 48 hours. Now, if those two filing cabinets had been instead filled to the brim with wads of 100$ notes, do you think that those two filing cabinets would have been treated any differently?
Well, of course they would have. You are not going to sell a couple of crappy cabinets stuffed at the Gunnels with a hundred dollar bills. So why is it that we don't understand the value of the information that's in those filing cabinets and manage those filing cabinets appropriately.
But see, it comes back to the fundamentals Loris, if we don't understand the value of our data and our information, our knowledge, we don't understand the sensitivity of those data assets. Then we are never going to manage them as well as they should be.
[00:52:40] Loris Marini: Absolutely James. Since we're approaching the end of our time for today,I want to ask you about the story of the LDO, the leaders data manifesto, and all the work that you're doing there. How did that come together in the first place?
[00:53:00] James Price: Well, it came together through the goodwill of some of the world's most stunning thinkers in the information asset management space. So I was lucky enough to be asked to present in Baltimore in the states. And I presented it and this fantastic woman called Danette McGilvery, who's internationally recognized for her work on 10 steps to data quality, said, "James, if you had your way, what would you do?"
And I sit down and said "I would try to put together the greatest minds in the world in a group that help senior leaders to understand the value of their information assets, and how to go about managing that. Will we keep getting derailed by people wanting to buy the shiny things? When in actual fact it doesn't require a silver bullet, it requires biting the bullet and managing the data properly".
Danette said, look, this is something that I've been thinking about for some time let's let's pull together a group. And so there was Danette and John Ledley and Tom Redman, Doug Laney, Kelly O'Neil and me. So Tom Redmond and Larry English were the pioneers of data quality that Larry unfortunately died last October which is very sad, but Tom is rocketing along.
Doug Laney is the world's foremost authority on valuing data through his book Infonomics, his mentor is a bloke called John Ladley who wrote the seminal tome Information Management about 15 years ago. There's Laura Sebastian Coleman, who is the editor of the Bible of data governance that the data management associations, DMBOK Data Management Body of Knowledge.... spot the odd one out!
So. Bloody Tom said to me the other day we were sitting because I chair this little group, the LDO and Tom said to me, "So James have a look around this zoom meeting. Look at all these people. He said, what do we all have in common?" And I said "Well, I don't know, Tom, what do we all have in common?"
Tom said, "we've all written a book, James, except for you."
[00:55:13] Loris Marini: No pressure. Right.
[00:55:16] James Price: So here is this, here is this astonishing bunch of people. I mean, they're just amazing. They're so smart. There's so wise and they're so prepared to donate their time to developing instruments that we are giving back to the global community. And it's a fabulous thing to be associated with.
The first piece of work that we did was the leader's data manifesto, which is a synopsis of what we want to try and achieve by helping organizations manage their data assets. The second piece of work we did was we took the 10 years of research that Dr. Nina Evans at the university of South Australia and I had done, and we took the root cause analysis of barriers to managing information assets well.
We kept asking why until we couldn't go any further. And, and we got to the point where, what is the ultimate reason for poor information asset management? Well, it's pretty simple. It's bad management. But you can't do anything with bad management. So what we did was we took it back one step, so now it's bad management minus one. So we've, we've developed a diagram, which you can find on data leaders.org.
[00:56:39] Loris Marini: Yep. Yep. And I'll put a link in the description.
[00:56:41] James Price: So it is the website of the leaders data organization, and you can find, you can find all these documents there, you can find the manifesto, you can find Nina's and my original research, you can find the, the root cause diagram, which was added to by Tom and Danette, for which we're very grateful.
The leaders data organization is a voluntary organization. We are very keen to have people who are passionate about driving good data practices, and we give back selflessly to the global community as a result, I adore every one of those people for the contribution that they make.
[00:57:21] Loris Marini: And James, I must say, it has been an absolute pleasure for me to have the opportunity to contribute a little bit in translating that manifesto into talent. We shared it a couple of months ago on LinkedIn. For everybody that's listening, if you do speak that language, then definitely check that out and let me know if that makes. James what's the best way to follow you and to get in touch with you?
[00:57:46] James Price: Uh, well, I'm on LinkedIn, so you can, you can find me on LinkedIn. You can find me through the leaders data organization. So dataleaders.org. You can find me at experiencematters.com.au.
[00:58:00] Loris Marini: Well, I, I can only thank you for your time today. This has been an incredible pleasure to have had the opportunity to dive a little bit deeper into the topics that are so important. Thank you, James, thanks again for being with me.
[00:58:13] James Price: I'm humbled to have been asked to do this, and I really appreciate you spending your time as well. Thank you, Loris, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.
[00:58:22] Loris Marini: Take care mate.
[00:58:22] James Price: Cheerio.