Thought Reading: Recommended reading for Data Leaders

By Daragh O Brien
July 24, 2020
12min read

Dermot Casey posted a question on Twitter today about books that leaders in information-driven enterprises should read, wondering if there were any others to add to the list.

I’m a big fan of Thought Readership. I’d much rather be recognised as a Thought Reader. While I wait for the kettle to boil this lunchtime, I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve read over the past twenty years which have helped shape my thinking. There’s a few dozen more technical books that I’d also point people at but that’s a topic for another day.

These are presented in no order of importance.

Tom is an old friend and mentor. He has shaped my thinking on data quality and data strategy more than almost anyone else. It’s a real honour for me that he now picks my brain on things from time to time. But Data Driven was the first book Harvard Business Review published that looked closely at the fundamentals of data quality and its role in the development of sustainable businesses.

Pretty much anything by Redman is worth a look.

I have the privilege of bouncing ideas around with Doug on the Leaders’ Data Group ( Infonomics has become a classic in data management literature.  Some bits of it I quibble about, but overall Doug’s insights into the science and art of understanding the economic value contribution of data is a go to reference. It’s got some very interesting models in it.

Another friend and mentor, and someone who’s sage advice has gotten me out of a few jams over the years. This book has it ALL. If you want to start getting into the nuts and bolts of designing the information engine of your business, EIM is a meaty tome that gives you lots to work with.

I’m trying not to play favourites, but Ladley and I share similar views on the world of Governance. The Second Edition of his book Data Governance has some excellent sage advice on how to implement appropriate organisational controls that are sustainable.

Gwen is another long standing friend and conference buddy. Way back in the DARK AGES (2006) she wrote this book that looks at a number of issues and challenges in information management (and she does point the finger at ‘alpha male’ cultures a bit).  The book is out of print so is difficult to come by.. but well worth a read if you can find it.

A slightly different take on things than Ladley and Gwen Thomas, but Seiner looks at how you can build your Governance without having to bolt stuff on… this is an approach I’ve used with small organisations or startups or departmental level initiatives. It takes time and effort but it can deliver results.

The fundamental concepts of quality and organisation transformation in Demings work are ageless. Always worth a look back.

Long before it was an irritating messaging infrastructure, Slack was a book by Tom DeMarco. In it he set out a very clear message that over optimising systems was a recipe for disaster as they would always operate at tension, so if something changes (like a global pandemic) then the system will break. He talks a lot about burnout and busy work… a good read.

The Excellence Dividend is a long arc follow up to Tom’s seminal 1980s text “In Search of Excellence”. There’s some fundamental truths here, set out in blunt terms, and with a sprinkling of humour.

I’m biased. Katherine and I wrote this one. But it is very good. People should read it. Other people say it’s very good.

I’d also add that people should read ANYTHING by Peter Drucker.

And Graeme Simsion is proof that there is life after data management.


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