How Does Everyone Have It So Wrong, Or Is It Just Me?

How Does Everyone Have It So Wrong, Or Is It Just Me?

I like to keep an eye on the market to see which companies are hiring, and for which roles in the BI and Analytics space. It helps to keep me grounded firmly in reality, and provides a view into the trends within the industry. I regularly use LinkedIn Jobs to view this information, as it allows me to filter by location and level of experience. A frequent search which I use is “Analytics” in the “United States” with an “Executive” and / or “Director” level of experience. Something that continues to amaze me is the frequency in which high levels of technical expertise are required for executive and leadership roles in the analytics and BI space…which leads me to the question, how have so many gotten it so wrong, or is it just me?

I can fully appreciate the requirement for technical skills in the organization, you need them to do BI and Analytics of any sort, but should they exist at the leadership level? Don’t get me wrong, there is a benefit to having a leader who has some knowledge of these skills, but should they be defined as part of their job? To me, the job of someone in a leadership role is being a leader!!

Leadership may mean different things to different people, and the skills of a leader may appear at any level of an organization, but we are specifically discussing the highest, most senior roles in an organization or company. These roles typically have titles that range from Senior Manager to Director, Senior Director, VP, Head of XYZ, CxO, and others. These are individuals who typically have 15 or more years of experience, define vision and strategy to bring the company forward, inspire those around them, and break down the barriers to help those around them to accomplish the goals of the organization and company.

The Business Dictionary defines leadership as:

The activity of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.

            Leadership involves:

  1. Establishing a clear vision.
  2. Sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly.
  3. Providing the information, knowledge, and methods to realize that vision.
  4. Coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.

A leader steps up in times of crisis and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations.

Dwight D. Eisenhower summed up the role of leadership very succinctly: Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Other experts on the topic speak of leaders as individuals who have followers, translate vision into reality, empower others, or have influence.

None of the definitions detail specific tactical acumen of any sort, so why should BI and Analytics leadership roles be any different? Why should they have expert or advanced knowledge of Python, SQL, R, SPSS, Hadoop, MongoDB, regression models, neural networks, etc. to be a leader? How will these technical skills, which can be purchased through any of thousands of recruiters during the course of an afternoon, help someone who is trying to guide their function to the future and guide their company or organization to success?

Though I will not specifically list the companies, I am including a few snippets from executive and leadership level job postings in the BI and Analytics space which include highly technical qualifications:

  • Head of Marketing Analytics
    • Must be a SAS expert
  • Vice President of Analytics
    • Demonstrated experience in statistics, test/control methodologies, supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms and advanced analytic techniques…
  • Head of Analytics
    • Strong knowledge of SQL, ability to write and read/understand and optimize complex queries.
    • Experience with Python
  • Director Business Analytics
    • Exceptional SAS skills to deliver statistical models, analyses, reports and move and manipulate data
  • Vice President of Analytics
    • Proficient with the use of advanced statistical analysis software and applications (SAS, R, SQL programming, etc.)
  • SVP Analytics
    • Extensive knowledge with logistic and linear regression models, variable reduction techniques, hypothesis testing, non-parametric testing, design of experiments, ANOVA, CHAID analysis and other advanced data mining techniques.
    • Strong knowledge of SAS, particularly SAS base, SAS/STAT, and PROC SQL.
    • Intermediate knowledge of R.
    • Demonstrated ability to use SQL and SAS to extract data from multiple data sources.

Will a leader who can debug script, code in Python, or work miracles in R be a better leader? I think not…this type of work will take them away from their primary responsibility of being a leader, and caring for those in their charge.

If we were truly looking for leaders, each of these could be re-written in a better way to include phrases like:

  • Exposure to…
  • Working knowledge of…
  • Familiarity with…

What is not said in the job description is just as telling, and just as important as the job description itself. Many of these examples include little or no mention of the hallmarks of leadership, with nothing about vision, strategy, influence, setting goals, inspiring others, communication or enablement. Be cautious about what is NOT there.

As a job seeker, beware of the job postings which are looking for leaders with a high level of technical skill, I suspect you will find yourself in a more tactical role than you are led to believe. As an employer, be extra diligent when interviewing that individual with a high level of technical capability, who also proclaim themselves to be leaders. The 2 are not mutually exclusive, but they are uncommon in a single individual, as they are completely different disciplines. If you do find the unicorn with exceptional technical and leadership skills, do whatever it takes to get them on your team and hold on to them!!

Leadership is a full-time job, which goes beyond management. It can be learned through the successes and failures of experience and accelerated through strong mentor / mentee relationships, but it also includes a set of skills which are difficult to teach. Look for individuals with depth and success across a broad scope of functions, and who have some level of expertise in the industry of BI and Analytics. You want folks with strong leadership skills, who know what can be accomplished with Python, R, SPSS, SQL and other technologies, not experts in the use of them.

For my money, I will hire a great leader with little or no industry experience over a technology expert with moderate leadership skills every single time.

I am Thankful for the Tableau Community

I am Thankful for the Tableau Community

Whether by design or because Tableau ignites passion in the users, my recent attendance at the Tableau conference once again confirmed how incredible the Tableau community truly is for those who participate. This community event is like no other in the industry. It combines business, technical, cerebral and artistic disciplines to bring together thousands of attendees for a week, encouraging them to share knowledge and experiences with others who have the same passion. All of these thoughts, people and events come together to create this amazing Tableau community. It is a week of fanaticism and pure passion for a product which has made a difference in the personal and professional lives of the attendees. Some folks even go so far as to make clothing out of visualizations through a company in Durham, NC named Spoonflower.

But it goes beyond the conference itself, this community is active throughout the year as well. Amazing people take time from their jobs, families, churches and real lives be part of something they love. People from all over the world are running TUGS (Tableau User Groups), data+women events, contests, blogging, writing books, creating training content, creating and participating in events like #makeovermonday, communicating and sharing via Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets. And like myself, people are starting companies with Tableau at the center.

My recent journey in the creation of Lewandog, Inc. has made me pause, and look around at what I have become part of, and then while at the conference, it really struck me how incredibly thankful I am for the wonderful community which has been created.

The Tableau Partners and independent consultants have been very helpful to me. Though I am potentially a competitor, many have taken the time to share their wisdom and experiences, give small business advice, entrepreneurial guidance, provide leads, validate my business model, review my website, and some have even shared document templates which would save me legal fees and hassles. I continue to hear nothing but encouragement from this part of the community.

“Jump in…the water is perfect” is a favorite quote from 1 of the independent consultants.

The bloggers continue to amaze me with the interesting topics they choose to tackle and the depth of knowledge which they choose to share. If you have a question about DataViz or Tableau, you can frequently find a solution from someone who has blogged about a similar problem. People are gracious, respectful in their writing style, and thoughtful in their comments and replies.

I have put together some resources related to Tableau bloggers, DataViz bloggers and other content on the Resources page of Lewandog, Inc. If I am missing something important, please let me know…

As a long time Tableau user (2007), I am proud to call many of the experts, Jedi’s (do you capitalize Jedi?), Zen Masters and Tableau employees friends. These individuals freely share their knowledge, often jumping into calls on their own time to tackle some of the hairiest and craziest challenges. More than a few times, a quick WebEx with 1 of these individuals helped to change my work into something outstanding or solve a problem which had stumped me and my team.

The Tableau employees and executives, as always, are amazing. They make the time to take an interest in your thoughts, life, business, and family. As you walk away from a conversation, you know that your opinions matter. Many are industry experts and are happy to share their knowledge via email, blogs or phone calls.

Tableau, the company, has recognized the value of the community and supports it through social media, marketing and the Social Ambassadors program, which is made up of individuals who act as role models and embody the best of the Tableau community.

Tableau has created something special here. People were passionate from the beginning, but looking back, I believe that the creation of Tableau Public amongst the biggest catalysts for this incredible community, providing people with a platform to share their work and discuss the merits. With the possible exceptions of Apple and Tesla, there are few other companies which have created a fan base with this level of exuberance for a product, and a community who gives back to itself.

At this time of year, it is good to reflect back on those things which you are thankful for, and I am no exception. I am thankful for my wonderful family, and the miracles which we have been so lucky to experience, and I am thankful to all who participate in, and manage any part of the Tableau community, which I am honored to be a member, especially those who have helped me forge my own path with Lewandog, Inc. (you know who you are…)

Thank you all, and I wish you the most wonderful holiday season!!

Gregory Lewandowski

How Lotus 1-2-3 Changed the World

How Lotus 1-2-3 Changed the World

Going way back to 1983, a lot was happening in the world; Magnum P.I. was the show to watch, the 1st mobile phone was introduced by Motorola, leg warmers were in fashion, and Duran Duran was “Hungry Like the Wolf”…yet, we often forget about the release of a new piece of software, which signified one of the most important events in data history.

On January 26, 1983, Lotus 1-2-3 (now discontinued) hit the market and brought with it new features and functionality, which had not been seen before in a desktop application designed for the consumer. Lotus added a graph maker (for those with video cards…seriously), macros, some database functionality, and was the 1st piece of commercial software to use television advertising.

Though there were already a couple of other spreadsheet applications out there at the time, the release of Lotus 1-2-3 quickly overtook those other tools. It was “The Killer App”, and began to define the entire personal computer market based on a computers’ compatibility with Lotus 1-2-3. The computer HW and SW distributors could not keep it in stock, and the entire ecosystem surrounding the HW necessary to run Lotus 1-2-3 flourished.

In addition to being an important catalyst for the personal computer revolution, Lotus 1-2-3 was an inflection point in the data world, profoundly changing the way we all worked. The layman was now able to work with data in a way that had never been possible before, which was simpler, faster, required little or no coding, and provided near instant feedback to the users. The relationships between the business and the technical organizations who lorded over the data at the time changed. These technical wizards, who were once seen as near-gods, were relegated to the role of a service organization who provided the data or access to the data, which would be used by the business. Business and technical teams found that their organizations were changing, as productivity increased and jobs changed. Entire floors or even buildings full of book-keepers were replaced by a few analysts who could work magic with Lotus 1-2-3. The technical organizations were similarly affected, as some of their core services were now being done by the business, and demand for their remaining services dwindled.

The following promotional video was designed for trade shows by Lotus.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and the world had settled down again. Lotus 1-2-3 had given way to MS Excel, and many new business intelligence applications and suites had debuted, focused on managing data and reporting at the company level, rather than the individual. The technical side of the house transformed themselves, creating new roles and services which required their expertise in new ways, while the business was still using spreadsheets or consuming data via IT-managed applications. We once again found ourselves in a world of corporate oligopolies, a world of high internal prices, long lead times, and employees struggling to do their job with the available technologies and data resources.

Today, we are experiencing a similar change. Tools like Tableau are once again allowing the relative novice to work with data in new ways, which are simpler, faster, require little or no coding, and provide near instant feedback to the users. Individuals and small organizations are creating and publishing content in a matter of weeks, days or hours, instead of months quarters and years, while large organizations are transforming the way that data is used within the Enterprise. The quality of the work is enhanced by the proximity of the data producer to their customers, while the tools promote high-quality visualizations with a higher communication value. Again, both the business and technical organizations are seeing changes in roles, services, and the skillets required to be successful.

In short, we are in the midst of another inflection point in the world of data. Though Tableau and other tools have been around for some time now, this change is far from over. The market for data related products and services continues grow, as does our creation of data. The organizations, roles, and skills needed to be successful are now moving to the mainstream within companies. And, while MS Excel still remains the most widely used business intelligence tool in the world, and an important part of data for the masses, it is no longer the only option.

The world of data will continue to change, you can get on board and come along for the ride, or you can work on your resume as the world of data passes you by…

The Problems with BI have nothing to do with Technology

Over the course of my career, the most interesting and exciting parts have been spent working in and around the Business Intelligence and Analytics space. I have been lucky enough to see the world through many lenses; Enterprise, small business, and not-for-profit, as well as from various organizational perspectives; sales, channels, operations, marketing, finance, customer voice, IT, and others.

One consistent observation across each type of company, organization, and role is that the problems with BI and Analytics have very little to do with technology.

The nature of technology is that it will always change, it will always be replaced with newer and better technology. The incumbent technologies are constantly being disrupted to create a better world of BI and Analytics for all of us. For some, this is exciting, for most, it means the inherently scary act of change. It introduces uncertainty, the unknown, a loss of control, and we simply dislike the feelings that are evoked; we may, in fact, fear them.

The real problem we face when introducing new technology, is reluctance or fear to change.

The fear of change is known as Metathesiophobia, which can be devastating to those affected. Phobia Source states that ”An individual suffering from Metathesiophobia, may simply not want anything that is different than what they already have. These individuals may have a comfort zone that they do not wish to disrupt by bringing anything unfamiliar into their lives”. I am not a psychologist, nor am diagnosing the folks we all work with as suffering from this phobia, however, I am suggesting that change can be scary, and we might just recognize some of these behaviors in ourselves, those around us and the organizations in which we work.

When change is introduced or forced upon us, people often become angry, reject it, sabotage it, or attempt to negotiate a smaller change. Though not the reactions we would like to see, this is completely understandable, as people wonder how the change will affect them. Will they still be important, will they retain their influence, will they keep their team, keep their job, or be able to feed their family and pay their mortgage? In the system they know, they are comfortable, safe and know where they stand, in the future, unknown system, they have doubts and questions.

Only 54% of change initiatives are successful.

The introduction of new technologies, like Tableau, requires a transformation in processes, staff, roles, skills, budgets, timeframes, etc. To successfully grow and scale your practice, you must focus not only on the technology; but more importantly on how to manage the change and the activities which surround the technology. Managing change is always about people. The teams affected by the change must understand it, the vision, timing, context, and impact on their world. Large and profound change is difficult, and there are many approaches to the discipline of change management.

I have found the following focus areas will aid you in the successful deployment of new technologies:

  • Focus on the people and the culture, it is personal to them
  • Find advocates at all levels and within each role
  • Engage with all levels of the organization (engagement does not = communication)
  • Engage senior leadership for active participation (engagement does not = communication)
  • Communicate as transparently as possible
  • Provide consistency in your messaging from all levels of leadership
  • Define reasonable goals, but be prepared to alter them as you hone in on reality
  • Create a measurement system to track the goals
  • Create effective training and education to prepare the folks on the front line for the inevitable future
  • Create visible wins quickly
  • Celebrate the milestones
  • Provide the kind of support and service you would get from Nordstrom, not the kind you get from the DMV.

Is there more to it than this…absolutely!! But if we can set aside the technology, and focus on the people, and activities which surround the technology, you can find the success which you desire.

Lewandog, Inc. Blog

Welcome to my blog!!

I am Gregory Lewandowski, President, and Owner of Lewandog, Inc., a consulting firm designed to address the challenges of “The New World” of BI. I aid companies as they scale their BI implementations from department to Enterprise, focusing on the activities which allow them to sustain their growth in today’s business world.

This blog will be published approximately every 2 weeks, and will include topics like metrics, CoE’s (centers of excellence), design, DataViz, storytelling, the business of BI, etc. I strive to create relatively short, and to the point content, which will address BI, Analytics, and Tableau from the perspective of forward thinking practitioners often caught between the business and technical sides of the house. You will not see jargon, database schema, or code of any sort, but instead, you will see that the new world of BI is a different animal, and success in this world will NOT scale if NOT treated as such.

Thank you,

Gregory Lewandowski

Information Technology and the Loss of Common Sense

Information Technology and the Loss of Common Sense

A not so recent blog post from 1 of my favorites!!!

I am lucky enough to have made the acquaintance of Stephen Few, a man of common sense and high standards, on multiple occasions. I applaud his eloquence and thoughtfulness as he takes on causes like this!!

In Stephen’s most recent blog post found on, he shares a bit of his personal experiences at the receiving end of poor customer service, ignorance and bureaucracy; including the personal pain it has caused and the very tangible derivative costs to his customers.

Let this serve as a lesson to the bureaucrats, and a call to action for all of us who despise the small and feeble minds and organizations that thrive in this way. As Stephen says in closing his post…“it’s time to speak up”!!

Leader vs Managers

Originally published a couple of years ago, but I keep coming back to it…

The following is from 1 of the blogs that I read on a regular basis, Leadership Freak. Simply put, this is 1 of the best descriptions I have run across related to leadership due to the fact that it articulates how a true leader may think or act differently than others. Can you spot the leaders around you??

Leaders vs. Managers