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In talking to customers last week, they again reinforced that information governance success is still on the horizon for each of them. And these were companies that had a dedicated data governance organization in place for years! Here are some of the key barriers still affecting most customers I talk to, and some general guidance on how to overcome these problems. (Points for you if you can add some of the lyrics or artist to my song choices—or if you can think of a better one!):

  • Stayin’ Alive: They are already very good at manually moving data and fixing it to be fit-for-use. As a consequence, the larger organization does not buy in to the need to focus on information as a critical asset. The impact of this problem is that the EIM group is continually focused on keeping the train on the tracks. They are unable to spend any time/resources on how to make sure that the destination is correct, and that fresh cargo is being delivered.

    Another impact of this dimension is that the business has the perspective that their information is good enough. If the information is good enough, why do they need to participate/own the quality and use of the information that runs their business? Someone else has been taking care of it so far, so what’s the problem?

    Guidance: This one is tricky, but here is what some companies do. Roll up the opportunity cost in a qualitative way. In this way, you’re showing not only how much manual work you are doing now, but what projects you are not able to drive because of this lack of bandwidth. And, of course, what can very well go wrong if information is not considered a core contributor to new strategies, like Big Data or Social. Talk about exposure to risk and how people-dependent your current processes are. (Let me know if this works for you!)

  • Holding Out for a Hero: Management that has lived through an information crisis (delayed go-lives, incorrect compliance reporting, inability to ship product from a plant, unplanned machinery down-time) can be a powerful supporter of the information agenda. However, that management layer changes frequently. Because of this, there’s a continual re-education and justification process for the EIM investment.

    Guidance: Make sure you are continually publishing results in business-value terms—even when you are not immediately being asked for this data. Stockpile your Data Quality Tales of Woe and have those ready to support your metrics (notice the tie to data supported by a story).

  • All My Life I’m Searching for Something: As a result of all of the above tension, groups are focusing one more magic metric. The idea is that if they only had this one additional metric, people would see the value. Perhaps if we had one number that showed the value of information in each business process? Perhaps if we could show the dollar value of each information asset, according to the business usage of that information? Perhaps if we could show exactly how much time (and the cost of that time) we spend ensuring current levels of information quality?

    Guidance: Yes, we can always do a better job putting together business-centric metrics. Percentage of nulls on a field is never going to cut it. However, one more metric is not likely to turn around the conversation. Check out the Made to Stick book for details, but the Heath brothers talk about using emotional stories to help sell your position. It’s a great read. The need for one more metric is highlighting more of an organizational culture problem, which requires a different solution.

As my friend Herman says, “Hope is not a strategy.”  Is your organization experiencing these same challenges? How have you tackled them? What is your strategy for tackling them?

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