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In his annual state of the union speech last month President Barack Obama made a passing reference to the need for the U.S. to train more people in data management to supply the needs of companies. A little later in the speech he talked about how some new, targeted government regulations would benefit honest businesses while rooting out the bad apples. Maybe he was thinking that those newly trained data managers would be able to help companies with the advanced data management techniques his undefined regulations would require.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against all regulations. And I’m certainly not opposed to giving tuition credits to students wanting to study the art of data management. But, as the politicians like to say, “let’s be perfectly clear”: modern government regulations require IT professionals to implement new data management policies to prove they are in compliance with changes in the law.

/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/shutterstock_82365553_169626.jpgFor example, in 2006 the European Union issued a directive to communications carriers forcing them to hold on to subscriber usage data for six to 24 months. That’s so the companies can quickly respond to legal authorities who need to access data for criminal investigations. While some operators may already keep the information, it’s often stored offline. In the case of the EU directive, the information must be able to be accessed without delay by authorities armed with a warrant.

The way the EU directive was written means that wire line, wireless, and ISP operators must retain 15 categories of data. And because the time periods vary, the amount of data to be stored is unpredictable. As you can imagine, the EU also imposed some hefty data security demands as well as unique access requirements. For example, some legal authorities may send their warrants by FAX, e-mail, or even letters via the postal service.

Needless to say, the regulations don’t spell out exactly how carriers should implement the data retention policy. They simply need to do so.

It’s not just the EU creating rules affecting corporate data management. Japan is now considering revising its strict data protection policy for consumers. The U.S. is in a political battle between those that want tighter Internet controls for copyright holders. And many other nations are designing new laws that affect how companies manage their data.

As I’ve argued here before, having a chief data officer would give enterprises a huge competitive advantage by being able to anticipate the impact new regulations would have on an organization’s data management strategy. In fact, it is increasingly paramount for large multinational companies to have a C-level data officer. Without one, the enterprise lacks a critical resource to compete in today’s global markets.

I agree with President Obama. Data management is, indeed, an excellent career choice for young people. After all, companies need smart people who understand its strategic importance and know how to react quickly when the politicians change the rules on data management for business. Again. And again.

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