Think 2019 Session: Creating a Data Driven Culture (#2397)

We are only 2 weeks away from the IBM Think conference! This awesome tech conference takes place in San Francisco on Feb 12-15, 2019. As you plan your schedule, I encourage you to check out the session that I will be holding with my colleagues Nic Sauriol and Arn Hyndman on the topic of creating a data driven culture.

As some of you may have read about previously, over the past three years at IBM Cloud we have undergone a transformation to a data-driven culture fueled by data democracy. The path has not been easy. It has been chock-full of both technical and cultural hurdles. Kind of like a game of whack-a-mole, we still have challenges. But I can tell you that the vision of data democracy has been achieved and we are continuing to improve as we go.

During our talk, we will discuss some of the real challenges that we’ve faced in the areas of tools, data and culture. We’ll talk about some of the solutions that we have found to be effective for us. We will illustrate each area with a real example of a challenge that we faced and a solution which we used to address the problem.


Think 2019

First things first, you may be wondering what the IBM Think conference is all about. Think is a massive, yearly IBM conference which covers a wide range of business and technical topics. There are educational sessions, technical sessions, hands on labs, expert engagements, networking and fun! If you have the chance to attend, I would highly encourage it.

Given the sheer size of the conference, it was previously held in Las Vegas. This year the conference is going to be held in San Francisco. Or should I say that it will be taking over San Francisco?! Have a look at the map below to see the spread of facilities that the conference will be spanning. It will be nice to get some fresh air between sessions and enjoy the city throughout the conference. On the last night, the conference will celebrate the innovation contained in the Bay Area with a private event at the iconic Pier 39. 


The Illustrations Backstory

You may have noticed in the preview that we have some pretty interesting illustrations for the slides. When we were trying to think of what to discuss in our session, we were struggling with the idea that we are essentially creating a system that is everything and nothing at the same time. The system has to be everything: performant, quality, real time, have all major data points available and in the tool of choice. But, it also has to be nothing too. It has to be easy and relatively effortless for the user. The ideal case, is that they don’t have to think much about their data. They should simply use what they need, when they need it. The platform has to minimize and obfuscate all of the underlying complexity and provide a simple functional experience for the user.

Our very talented and creative IBM Cloud design lead, Brendan Fitzpatrick pointed out that it sounds like a classic Rube Goldberg machine. While we do our best to reduce complexity, the struggle is real. When you are dealing with many data systems, teams, compliance concerns, legal guidelines, multi tool flows and more, things can get complicated pretty quickly

After this suggestion, an idea was born! I contacted my incredibly talented brother, Paul Hammond to see if he would partner with me. From there we exchanged a ton of sketches for what Rube Goldberg style data, tools and culture illustrations would look like based on my experiences. Side note: Paul has the patience of a saint for accepting my scary sketches and making sense of them.

We will talk to all of the illustrations below in our Think session, but please know that these illustrations are born from our real journey and we couldn’t be more proud!



In the tools section, we discuss some of the challenges in setting up systems to create, gather and pipe data from system to system, while maintaining reliability, quality and simplicity. The end goal is to remove the complexity from the consumers per-view and simply allow them to interact with real time quality data in their application of choice!



In the data section, we discuss our data pipeline and the constant love and attention that goes into maintaining quality and providing a simple experience for the user. We want them to easily perform a data investigation in their data application of choice.



In the culture section, we discuss a majority of the non-technical challenges associated with attempting to set up a data democracy. We discuss everything from the technical and cultural access barriers to consumer insecurity and education. Our goal is to guide the organization to a full fledged and supportive data driven culture.


See you There

Thank you for reading about our upcoming session at IBM Think 2019. Please comment below, or tweet at me to let me know your thoughts

If you are attending Think, please message me to meet up and talk about data. I hope to see you at our session!