Customer pulse check: information as an asset
I’ve been spending a lot of time with customers, doing day-long information strategy sessions, conducting Influence Councils, and presenting at conferences. Here are the major trends I’m hearing.
- Help! We need an information strategy!: I’m hearing more and more of this. Last year, it was more “Do I really need one? I have a BI strategy and I have a business process transformation project. I can only do so much.” So we’ve made progress in the last year. More companies are now realizing that quality data feeds nearly all of their strategic initiatives, and that this data needs to be managed like a true enterprise asset. Before you get too excited, I am not saying that companies HAVE a strategy yet. But more and more, they know they need one. This leads directly to the next trend…
- Could you help with the business case?: We could just repeat this trend every year. It’s always about the business case. EIM and information governance are on-going programs, not projects that have a start and end date. As such, they need funding and executive buy in. Getting that buy-in and funding remains a challenge for many data peeps. It’s hard to get funding without metrics, but don’t stop there. You must translate the metrics into business-value language and fire up some stakeholders on the business side as well as on the IT side. Too often, data people love the statistics of data, and fool themselves into thinking that everyone else does, too. Do not recruit your executive sponsor by talking about % of duplicates, CRUD workflow, or metadata. Don’t do it. Instead, talk about productivity (FTE refocusing), opportunities lost (data time sinks), risk avoidance (regulatory and compliance confidence), increased revenue (up-sell and cross-sell opportunities), or reduced cost (shipping efficiency). Oh, do you have a Data Quality Tales of Woe book yet (http://scn.sap.com/community/enterprise-information-management/blog/2011/08)?
- So if I do this Big Data thing, I won’t even need EIM, right?: This is a popular question post-conference. You still need EIM, but you can now do it better. When you get the point of having one big HANA instance that stores your transactional, master, and reporting data, you will have definitely alleviated some data movement challenges. However, you will still have data modelling practices. And what about data quality? Wouldn’t it be great to have one instance of a data quality rule that could be deployed and enforced in all of these use cases? YEAH. And you still need to govern that data with policies that make sense for your organization, which means that you still need governance workflows and governance analytics to make it all happen. Don’t be wooed by solely the volume and speed…everywhere you have variety or expand your sources, you’ll need to make sense of that new data and relate it to the data already in your system. The only way to do that is with a core EIM practice, and tools that support it.
- Business and IT are now talking together, but we’re still having trouble establishing true ownership and accountability. : See the point above about an executive sponsor and a business case. Accountability does not mean saying “we own the data”, but it means devoting resources to make sure that the data is managed appropriately. And in providing tools that makes this management as easy as possible. I definitely see movement on this trend, but it always feels glacial. We need to again constantly translate from data to business talk, and ensure that our accountable parties are understanding the downstream impacts of data issues. And that we are providing tools that radically reduce the workflow of data steward email -> IT translation -> create sample set -> send back to data steward -> refine rules and add new ones in a few more emails -> IT translates rules again -> run a sample set again -> data steward say “no that’s not what I meant -> around and around we go. Is it a wonder that this loop isn’t tighter?
All in all, there is definitely movement on all of these core trends. Even three years ago, I was still hearing “is there such a thing as a data quality tool?” way more frequently than I would have liked. We are better now, but still have a ways to go.
Where is your company? Are you ahead or behind of the trends mentioned above?