Technology Decision Makers

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A group for those in nonprofit IT decision-making roles to connect with peers and share best practices. This Technology Decision Makers group is for nonprofit IT or MIS Directors/Managers as well as CIOs and CTOs to connect with their peers and share best practices. Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to: hardware and software management, product reviews, emerging technology, best practices, collaborating effectively with other departments, and management conundrums. Membership is restricted to IT staff at nonprofit organizations.

Help creating data position

  • 1.  Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 14, 2019 10:47
    **cross-posted in data and Tech Decision Makers

    Those of you who have met me at NTC have heard me complain about how my data is hopelessly siloed.

    We're a pretty big organization with about 20 programs and something like 15 or 16 databases. There's no interfaces between any of these databases, and in some cases we don't even really control the data (state and federal databases, etc.).

    There's been a shakeup in staffing in the last few days and the time is right to make a play for a FTE to just handle data and reporting.

    Before I do that, I really need to come up with a clear job description. Once I have a clear job description I can figure out a title and a decent rate of pay.

    So far my job description is:
    1. create order out of chaos
    2. handle the half-dozen or so big reports we are responsible for every year.

    Any thoughts on that?

    What do you call that person? Data Analyst? Data and Analytics Specialist?

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    Colin Boyle
    Step Up Suncoast
    Sarasota, FL
    cboyle@manateecaa.org
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  • 2.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 15, 2019 09:55
    Calling someone an analyst or specialist will not give them enough leverage in the org chart to shift policies and procedures that contribute to your chaos and siloing. While the position didn't necessarily have to be the driver of change, it seems like the opportunity is there. Badge the position as a manager to communicate that this isn't a back-office role only.

    Happy to talk further, I help organizations with this kind of organizational development work around data all the time. Ping me directly if you'd like to talk.

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    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
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  • 3.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 15, 2019 12:45

    Hi Colin,

    Your first bullet point, "create order out of chaos" from ~16 different databases (I assume different products, different policies/processes, different interfaces and of course different purpose) -- indicates that the person's job will be full of a lot of identifying the source(s) of chaos, assessment of systems, creating a roadmap etc., all the while making sure her eyes are firmly on the organization's goals and objectives/deliverables, and simultaneously making sure that this person is also adept at drawing reports, etc. I think that this position probably includes a strategy component, as well as a reporting/administrative component.

    Purely from the perspective of hiring a candidate with a perfect skill set, it might be hard to find someone who can be strategic, at the same time focus on nitty gritty details. How about breaking this task into two components, one involving assessment, strategic direction and another focusing on actual execution aspect such as report generation?

    I should also point that most of the assessment and strategy setting is one-time job whereas reporting will be ongoing.

    Hope this helps.



    ------------------------------
    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)
    www.topcloudconsult.com
    medhananal@topcloudconsult.com
    650.600.9374
    ------------------------------

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 4.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 15, 2019 12:51
    Edited by Medha Nanal Aug 15, 2019 12:51
    Wanted to add that I read Isaac's post after I posted mine. I think Isaac captured the essence of what I was saying, in a more organizational-politics-specific fashion. Essentially, I agree with him that if you want this person to bring about a cross-system change, then the position needs to have the requisite power and a title is important (because oftentimes, people respond to perceived sense of power and knowledge). Hope this helps.

    ------------------------------
    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)
    www.topcloudconsult.com
    medhananal@topcloudconsult.com
    650.600.9374
    ------------------------------

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 5.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 16, 2019 08:36

    I should add that the position will have the ear of the IT Director and be one degree of separation from a sympathetic CEO.  That said, I think the person in that position will always be dealing with the symptoms and not the causes.

    Our data mess and silo problems aren't a result of internal politics, but rather has been imposed on us by outside forces.  Wherever possible we've tried to consolidate data, but different programs have different requirements.  Our housing program requires the use of a database developed by HUD.  LIHEAP has a specific database mandated by the state DEO.  We have an outside vendor that handles a lot of our Head Start paperwork (and they do an awesome job), but part of the deal is that we have to use their in-house database (which is not a terrible product).    That's how we ended up where we are.

    As you point out, Medha, the candidate is going to require strategic thinking and nitty-gritty skills.  While I'm pretty sure such a candidate exists, I'm not sure how long I'm going to be able to keep them because I know how much those skills are in demand.



    ------------------------------
    Colin Boyle
    Step Up Suncoast
    Sarasota, FL
    cboyle@manateecaa.org
    ------------------------------

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 6.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 16, 2019 08:56
    I hope this doesn't come across as self-serving, but in some cases we get hired to bring that strategic thinking and deep insight, and to coach and advise a hire like the one you're describing, precisely because it's tough to hire and retain a senior enough candidate for this kind of position.

    We've also had success introducing data warehouses into environments that are fragmented because of the requirements to use government systems and the like.

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
    ------------------------------

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 7.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 16, 2019 11:50

    Hi Colin,

                   Your organization sounds similar to mine. We are also a large org with 25+ programs, including some that are tied to specific State/Fed platforms we have no control over. The rest of the programs use SaaS platforms I put in place, so we also have a combination of multiple data sources to wrangle. It is so exciting to see others adding these positions to their agencies. I've been the "Data Analytics Manager (DAM)" for a mental health non-profit for 5 years now, but I don't know many others in similar positions. I've heard this position be called a "unicorn" position many times because it is indeed so difficult to find someone with the needed skill set. Finding and keeping someone who is discerning enough to keep a high-level view in addition to knowing the smallest of details is difficult. The person also must be introverted enough to stay sane while completing complex projects on their own, while being extroverted enough to act as the conduit between IT, staff, and even stakeholders. With new data regulation coming in periodically, this person must also be a champion of change management. Part of what allows this position to have strategic influence is having them report directly to the C-Suite. I reside in the "Administration" side of the agency, so it is clear organizationally that I touch and influence all programs, policies, and procedures. My job description includes data reporting, advanced analytics and visualization, database development and administration, and operational risk management. We use phrases like "manage the reporting environment" to capture all it entails to report on, wrangle, and improve disjointed data sources. We use the phrase "identify solution strategies" to imply there is a significant role and allowance for this person to guide strategic development and improvement plans. We also state the position should "proactively analyze and drive data governance, compliance, and risk reduction" to imply the position has a real voice in driving process changes throughout the org. By using these broader phrases in the job description, it allows for more flexibility as the current "problems" will change over time. What will the person do after those initial data problems are "solved"? Finding the person who spots issues before everyone else, and can move others to act, helps to make the position valuable over time. The person who naturally thinks this way, can be more valuable than someone who knows the specific platform or tools you currently use. My background is in psychology and research – not technology or mathematics, etc. so be open to who could apply as well. I'd be happy to talk further and/or share my job description. Best of luck!





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    Katherine Delgado
    kdelgado@fcsnashville.org
    Data Analytics Manager
    Family and Children's Service
    Nashville TN
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  • 8.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 16, 2019 12:56

    Katherine,

    I'm hearing yo on FM.  I'm thinking the ideal candidate is a liberal arts major who knows how to write a query as opposed to a CompSci person.

    Mariana,

    I do worry about my ability to retain this person long-term.  The good news is, after 6 years with this org, I feel pretty confident in our ability to provide a steady stream of chaos.  :-)



    ------------------------------
    Colin Boyle
    Step Up Suncoast
    Sarasota, FL
    cboyle@manateecaa.org
    ------------------------------

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 9.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 16, 2019 12:31
    Colin,
    From what I see, it looks like you may want to think about two different types of positions, one to come in and give everything a good scrubbing and another to help it run smoothly afterwards. The reason I separate it out is that I LOVE a good database scrub. Spending about a year or two getting everything nice and tidy are the best parts of my job. Then comes the regular maintenance, report running, etc. For me, that's when things start getting boring. While it is the reward for a job well done, I usually start looking around for a new opportunity at that time simply because it is kind of tedious. Maybe focus this job more on the "order out of chaos" part first and don't look poorly on short-timers because their specialization may be in the creation of order, not in its maintenance. Then look for someone who can fill the maintenance position.

    ------------------------------
    Marianna Dostal
    Data Administrator
    Cleveland State University
    Cleveland, OH
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  • 10.  RE: Help creating data position

    Posted Aug 16, 2019 13:45
    Hi Colin,

    You mention that a lot of your silos are due to the systems involved and not due to the people involved :-). Given this, I think you will need someone who has a good deal of knowledge in integration/ETL/API's and related paradigms (polling, pub/sub, webhooks etc.), and also has had some exposure to prevalent middleware products.

    Also, in my experience with projects involving such integration, even if initially there's no politics involved, once you begin to integrate the systems, you may face some resistance, which might give rise to some politics. Usually, people "hide" behind the most obvious obstacle, which is the systems in this case, but once the discussion ensues about removing that obstacle, people's insecurities, fear of change, etc. comes out, and the matter can become political. In other words, I'd not discount the "influence" aspect needed to succeed in this position.

    Hope this helps.

    ------------------------------
    Medha Nanal
    Strategic Data/Database Consultant for Nonprofits (Fundraising, Operations, Programs)
    www.topcloudconsult.com
    medhananal@topcloudconsult.com
    650.600.9374
    ------------------------------

    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline