The politics of data: The long and winding path to unlocking the full value of enterprise data with AI

The politics of data: The long and winding path to unlocking the full value of enterprise data with AI
Photo by Jannes Glas / Unsplash

"First get control of the data" he said.

It was January 2001. We were in my corner office on the 22nd floor of the nicest building of downtown Honolulu, a highflying startup - for the moment. My boss had come from other successful experiences in Asia, but the mindset he shared represented the same mindset of many in US based IT enterprises - then and now.

Get the data. Keep it under your control. If you control the data, nothing else matters.

A few months later, 9/11 would happen. A few short weeks after that our startup would close down as investors reacted to the uncertainty in the aftermath of 9/11.

But the simple blunt way he summarized the politics of data has always stayed with me, as an example of the very common thinking that drives the fears, resistance, and often tug of war decision-making that always seems to coincide with large and valuable collections of data.

Today, the excitement around Generative AI is motivating corporate leaders to find ways to unlock the full value of data stored in their enterprise data warehouses.

However, the politics of data make this endeavor more challenging than expected. Unlike the freely available Internet data used to train Big Tech's large language models (LLMs), much of the corporate world's high value domain-specific data remains trapped in legacy systems.

Significant investments in data modernization are essential to leverage AI and unlock this data's true potential. Unfortunately, data politics - and hesitation due to fears of losing control - can interfere with the planning and execution of data modernizations, and limit the value delivered.

Understanding the politics of data is crucial for any change initiatives involving data or AI. Change leaders must navigate these challenges effectively - and the good news is - principles for data-related change leadership can also apply broadly to other change leadership scenarios.

In the continued learning section below you'll find three S3T Playbooks for Change Leaders, each providing timely advice and skill building that you can immediately apply in your work.

3 S3T Playbooks

Continue your learning and dive deeper with these resources for Paying Members. If you haven't gotten your own Paid Membership yet, click the subscribe button here to unlock full access and continue your essential learning!

S3T Playbook: 8 Strategies for Successful Data Modernization

S3T Playbook: 6 Proven Ways to Resolve Conflicts

S3T Playbook: Developing and Maintaining an Independent Understanding of the Modern Technology Landscape