In this five part blog post I will present a number of different types of data personality that people may recognise from the organisations that they are involved in. I will provide examples of how these personalities operate and suggest ways that we need to engage them to improve how data is managed.

I have titled these posts “The Data Zoo” as there may be many different species of data user within the zoo, there are also different sub-species, which may form part of future blog posts.

I am sure most people will recognise that different people interact with data (and each other) in different ways; however, it is not always easy to understand the different ways that these personalities behave. Whilst psychologists would undoubtedly have sophisticated tools for defining personalities, I propose a simple structure which will help to define the different data personalities and how they relate to each other. The personalities have been plotted onto a matrix using two key dimensions – Compliance and Enthusiasm:

  • Compliance is a measure for how well these data personalities comply with the written and unwritten procedures and standards of an organisation. If new circumstances arise how will they behave? Where there is uncertainty what will they do?
  • Enthusiasm is a measure for how much energy a data personality puts into data related activities (whether correctly applied or not!). This can include energy and enthusiasm for populating corporate systems or for developing and updating local spreadsheet based solutions which may or may not have official awareness and approval.

The diagram below illustrates the different species in the Data Zoo based upon these two dimensions.

The following blog posts in this series will explain these different data personalities in more detail and will explore the good and the bad characteristics of these personalities.

See Part 2 – Low compliance personalities

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3 thoughts on “The Data Zoo (Part 1 of 5) – The shape of the zoo

  • 28th March 2010 at 17:40

    I think you are missing a dimension.

    Compliance and enthusiasm are very, very important, I agree. But I think you may be missing “reach.” Not sure this is the best term, but let me explain what I mean. Reach would be the extent to which the person can change, update, alter, enter and generally affect data.

    Enthusiasm is more of a personality type in that it measures their desire and their time spent whereas reach is actual capability (can they do massive batch updates with transformation logic) and access (can they only really change their own data in one system).

    By including enthusiasm AND reach, a complete view of impact could then be gained but you could still retain division between the idea of enthusiasm (something that is really important from a personnel management and change management perspective) and “reach” which is an important idea in terms of control, mitigation, process improvement, security options, etc.

    I think the biggest value in including both enthusiasm and reach is in creating good cognitive models (obviously leading to good tactical approaches) for actually resolving the issues.

    • 28th March 2010 at 18:48


      Thanks for your comment and suggestion.

      I understand what you mean by the concept of “Reach” – I once had to deal with a Data Beaver with high reach who, through enthusiasm and lack of care, managed to over-write tens of thousands of records. Once identified, he was full of remorse and worked hard to undo his errors. Similarly, I have encountered a number of data anarchists whose reach was low, but they created problems in an otherwise good data set by creating and updating their own version of it and keeping quiet about it. I have covered the contrast in acceptability of behaviours towards assets and data in my post “Would you allow this?” see

      Whilst it is much easier to explain the concept of models that have two axes, your suggestion is a good one, so in a future revision of the model, I will look at revising the “Enthusiasm” dimension to see if it can also include “Reach” in some way.

      Your final point is very pertinent (and is covered in the last part of this blog post), namely, how to deal with the different data personalities. Whilst we all chuckle at the traits we have shown at different times in our careers and of individuals we have encountered, the key purpose of this series was to help people identify different traits and then to formulate strategies to improve behaviours.


      • 29th March 2010 at 15:35

        I agree very much that models on two dimensions are a lot easier to communicate. Absolutely! I wish you luck in merging enthusiasm and reach into one, if you do go back to do that. I think it would be super valuable and I’m sure you can do it in a credible way.

        And I DO think this type of model is good support “to formulate strategies to improve behaviours.”



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