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The Data Fairy

by Alan D. Duncan  |  October 31, 2014  |  1 Comment

Last blog out, we visited the fairytale castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Cue a tenuous link to talk about someone who might live in such a place, the Data Fairy.


Full disclosure and credit where credit is due. I was introduced to the Data Fairy by former client and now good friend Liz Locksley. Liz has a fantastic background in business strategy, process change, and data-driven decision-making, and is now active in sustainable living, energy-efficiency and green technology. If you ever get the chance to work with her, take it. Liz is ace.

Anyway, back to the Data Fairy. Liz suggests that typical dialogue might go like this:

End User: “I want a database.”

Liz: “Who’s going to look after that then…?”

End User: “Well, I thought you might… “

Liz: “Do I look like the Data Fairy?!”

Somewhat akin to her cousins the Tooth Fairy and Fairy Godmother, the Data Fairy is someone who is elusive, enigmatic and only really appears at time of great need. But if you’re lucky enough to find them, you can depend upon them to help you fulfill your heart’s desires or resolve some intractable problem. When the Data Fairy comes, you just make your wish for data, they wave their data wand, and data magic happens. Setting up a new data system, cleansing a low-quality data set, preparing a report that no one else could deliver – these are all in a day’s work for the Data Fairy.

But remember, in the worlds of Fairy Tales, magic always comes at a cost. Rapunzel’s prince loses his eyes. Cinderella’s step-sisters cut off parts of their feet and had their eyes put out by birds. Pinnochio is hanged for his faults.

The Data Fairy’s enchantments are no different. With great power comes great responsibility, and relying on the Data Fairy to save the day is never the end of the story. The data magic only lasts as long as the Data Fairy’s spell – at some point, they’ll be gone, and things will return back to normal, probably with unintended consequences. Heroes and heroines must ultimately stand up for themselves, find their answers from deep within themselves, and the happy ending only comes after hardships endured, adversity bravely faced and sorrowful lessons learned.

Do you have a Data Fairy in your organization? If so, treasure them. Just be careful what you wish for, and enjoy their magic while it lasts.

And if you are a Data Fairy, please get in touch and share your magical stories.


Category: analytics  big-data  business-analysis  business-intelligence  data-governance  data-quality  data-science  information-management  

Alan Duncan
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
22 years IT Industry

Alan Duncan is a Research Director within Gartner's Analytics and Business Intelligence research team. Major areas of interest include: the business value of analytics solutions and architectures, data governance and quality, culture of evidence-based decision making, and data-led organizational change. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on The Data Fairy

  1. Great post, as always Alan. I blogged on a similar topic a couple of years ago

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