People-Centric Governance – How Bristol Myers Squibb Takes a Personal Approach to Data

Over the past year, we’ve focused our Data Empowerment Experts series on data governance leaders who are empowering their organizations with trusted data. At the end of the day, empowerment is equal parts data and people. Enterprises need to be concerned that their data can deliver value, and that it can be trusted, easily found, understood, and accessed by the people in their organizations who need it. The organizations that are best at this process understand that if you can get data into the right individuals’ hands, they can do some pretty amazing things. And if we’ve learned anything in 2020—especially when you consider the awe-inspiring discoveries made over the past twelve months—it’s that there is essentially no limit to what people can do when they’re armed with the right data. If they can understand the data, they can change the world. 

This picture of a person looking through a microscope illustrates the importance of being able to deliver data that is trusted, easily accessed, and understood | Informatica

It’s through this lens that we explore the Bristol Myers Squibb story. In this, the first episode of our second season of the Data Empowerment Experts series, I’m joined by Angela Radcliffe, the Head of Data Governance and Stewardship for Bristol Myers Squibb, to navigate their experiences. Angela will explain how important data health is, how governance fits in (and how it must evolve) and how data literacy requires a personal experience. If done right, governance can remove friction, elevate trust, and empower the entire organization. As we have done with each of the Data Empowerment Experts, I sat down with Angela to understand how she got started in governance.   

Question: What’s your background and how did you get into the world of governance? 

Answer: I started on the medical education, commercial and payer side of the world. Then, after losing a sibling to an undiagnosed condition when he was just 21, I found my way to the R&D world and never looked back. Patient engagement for clinical research is at the heart of my experience, both literally and figuratively. When I struggled to make the impact I was hoping for in the creative and digital agency space, I decided to move into health tech and digital in both the startup and consultancy ecosystems. I hoped that by addressing some of the root cause issues connected with clinical trials, such as health literacy, I could move the needle.  While supporting various clients in the pharma space I kept coming back to the idea that data were also key enablers and, through some excellent mentors, found my way to data ethics and standards bodies, like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), where I currently support the development of a standard that will define the taxonomy for fairness in the trade of human data. When an opportunity came up to join BMS to drive the data enablement journey forward, I knew that I finally found the intersection of my passion, my skill set, and the right set of problems to solve. I have always been an Intrapreneur- and BMS has the culture I was looking for: human-centered, diverse and smart. While Data Governance is often seen as the boring guy in the room, next to topics like Artificial Intelligence, I have always seen it as the MacGyver of value creation and I’m trying to make it cool again! 

Question: Who are the best advocates for data at your organization? 

Answer: I think you find the best advocates where the value of data is already recognized as intrinsic to achieving a business outcome. Scientists are natural data advocates because they know that the quality of the data drives the quality of the hypothesis they are trying to prove.  They can be excellent storytellers for others in the organization. I also think you can find your best advocates in unlikely places: Customer and Patient advocacy teams are close to the mission of the work. They understand that having proper consent for patient data use is not just about ensuring privacy is maintained, but it is about having a trusted relationship with a human that is dealing with a health condition. They know that by respecting that trusted relationship, we can earn permission to study their data for our clinical research studies and accelerate treatments to market.  

Question: How can you help to improve data literacy? 

Answer: Don’t take a narrow definition of data literacy. It’s not just about teaching people how to read a scatter plot diagram! Like health literacy and all other forms of literacy, it is about enabling people to have the skills they need to make decisions. Enablement comes in many forms: communities, experiences, services, and education. Too often we get caught up in concepts and forget that the concepts are abstract and not likely to stick unless we make them personal. Instead, ground it in context and use cases. The mechanic on the shop floor, who is measured on production uptime encountering a broken machine during a critical path manufacturing stage, does not care about metadata. She cares about being able to identify quickly where to locate the replacement part she needs. If you can express that metadata is what powers her ability to source the part in time to keep the production online,  then she will have a reason to care. We also need to teach people how to articulate the question they need data to help them answer and then teach them how to act on the risk or opportunities the answer presents. That is how you unlock value from data.

Question: What parts of your business benefit most from having trusted data? 

Answer: Of course, all areas have benefit but the two that have the most to gain or lose are Research & Development, and perhaps unexpectedly, enabling functions, such as Human Resources and Information Technologies. This is because these areas represent the two hearts of our business: our science and our colleagues. Enabling functions also touches our suppliers, and R&D also touches our patients in our clinical trials, two critical partners in our success at BMS.

Question: How have you helped to build a data culture? 

Answer: I am helping shape the build of our data culture by reminding us that data are not just numbers – they represent humans, they represent the building blocks of treatments and cures, they represent ideas that can move society forward. I also hope that by expanding our viewpoint about what data literacy is, I am building a culture that recognizes that context is king and education is only as good as your ability to put it into practice and make it real for people. Finally, I hope to use my communications background to make storytelling, both with and about data, an important part of our data culture. If I can make data governance something you want to talk about, I have done my job well!

To learn more about Angela and the Bristol Myers Squibb journey, please plan to join us for the first episode of the second season of our Data Empowerment Experts series on January 21, 2021.