Nigel Turner has worked in data management for over 25 years. He spent much of his career at British Telecommunications (BT) where he led a series of company wide data improvement projects which brought huge benefits to BT.
Also in BT, he created and ran large information management and customer relationship management (CRM) consultancy and delivery practices. After leaving the company in 2010 Turner has since been a data consultant with several organisations including Trillium Software and FromHereOn (aka Enterprise Architects). Currently he is principal information management consultant EMEA for Global Data Strategy. He has been an active member of the Data Management Association (DAMA) for many years and is currently vice-chair of the DAMA UK chapter.
Turner was recently interviewed by Nicola Askham, known as the Data Governance Coach, about his views on what makes for success as a data governance professional.
Nicola Askham: How long have you been working in data governance?
Nigel Turner: At least 20 years, probably before the term data governance was even coined and popularised. Although we did not have a name for it at that time, data governance became an issue in BT in the 1990s.
When running data improvement projects it became obvious that a lack of business leadership and accountability for data was a major cause of the data quality problems we uncovered, and a significant barrier to fixing them. So we placed a big emphasis on getting business people interested and actively involved, and they eventually led the improvement projects. In practice they acted as de facto data owners and data stewards, even if we didn’t call them that at the time.
Askham: Some people view data governance as an unusual career choice. Would you mind sharing how you got into this area of work?
Turner: Like many people, purely by accident. Until the 1990s I had a pretty boring standard IT career, progressing from a programmer to business analyst, then onto team leadership and project management. Then I ran a project to investigate and remedy outstanding software faults on BT’s biggest customer service system at that time.
Its achievements were brought to the attention of a BT board member, the director of strategy. She met me and said ‘I want you to lead some work I have started on how we can improve our overall management of data’. Saying no was not a good career option, so that’s how I got into data as a focus in its own right. From there, data quality and data governance eventually became an abiding interest and passion.
Askham: What characteristics do you have that make you successful at data governance, and why?
Turner: I suppose it’s for others to judge my success (or otherwise) but I feel I’ve been helped by a couple of things.
First, I am not, and never have been, a technology geek, despite my many years in IT.