Data is a Lifestyle

Brett Colbert
3 min readFeb 17, 2022

I talk to a lot of customers in my role as IT CTO at Salesforce. Data always comes up in discussions with CIOs and CTOs. Actually, I can’t think of any recent conversation when data did not come up as a topic.

Here are some thoughts on data that I typically share/discuss with customers:

  1. Data is Lifestyle — Data is NOT a project that has a beginning and end date. Data never ends. Sure you can frame up your efforts and activities as distinct projects but the focus on data never ends. Companies that accept the fact that data is an effort that requires investment every single year will move much more quickly than companies that require a continual re-justification of data efforts which will simply suffer from slowness.
  2. IT Needs to Avoid Being a Bottleneck — IT needs an operating model regarding data that ACCELERATES the businesses ability to access and analyze data. This seems obvious but I often see customers that do not have a strategy related to “freeing the data” so that the business teams can move quickly. This IT strategy should include 1) an agreed upon data security decision making framework otherwise IT will continue to ask and re-ask the same questions over an over again for the same type of data which creates tremendous frustration with business teams 2) a “secure sandbox environment” in which business teams can analyze secure data sets with standard tools so that IT does not become a “reporting bottleneck.” No IT groups can keep up with all the different ways that business teams want to slice and dice data so IT must enable the business with self-service tools and secure environments in which to run business analysis 3) an architecture that includes granular access control so that it is easy to give employees the correct level of access based on their role. The ability to quickly enable a new user in a safe way that aligns to the data security rules is fundamental to a company’s agility.
  3. Integration and Data Go Hand-in-Hand — Companies need to ensure that their data AND integration strategies are aligned. I like to use a “cars and roads” analogy to explain this. Data = cars and Integration = roads. There is no advantage to have amazing cars (data) without a way to move those cars around (roads). The same can be said in reverse — no advantage to improving your roads (integration) if the cars (data) don’t function.
  4. Data as a Career — Companies need to support and encourage people to build their careers around data. This means that companies need full-time roles, transparent career progression and public recognition of employees who focus on data. Understanding the nuances of company data is a strategic advantage. Being able to leverage company data takes time in terms of learning data models, data architecture, tools and business data definitions. Don’t rely on external consultants for this critical role.

Hope this helps.

Brett Colbert

Brett Colbert is Global SVP of Salesforce Engineering at Publicis Sapient. Previously, IT CTO at Salesforce. Previously NetApp, Cisco, McAfee, Disney & Intuit.

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