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February 20, 2008

Why doesn't the business care about data governance?

Howdy folks. Back again after a little time off from the blog.

I have as usual, been to a lot of trade shows on Data Governance and MDM. And in the past month or so, I have run into more unemployed Directors of Data Governance than I care to admit. They were all very intelligent, thoughtful, and new quite knowledgeable about data management in general. So why is it that so many of them are looking for jobs. After talking to quite a few of them, I have some thoughts on why is it that the tenure of these folks is short.

Quite of few of them were working in financial services, specifically in companies where the mortgage credit crisis forced quite a few layoffs When asked why they were laid off. Many of them commented that business management didn’t appreciate the importance of data quality and governance. When I asked what were the benefits they were presenting, they commented that the benefits were obvious, but never articulated a specific example where data governance had saved money, prevented a disaster or improved the business in a specific measurable manner.

All of this doesn’t mean that data governance isn’t valuable. However, I think that it is perceived by business managers as just another one of those overhead activities that IT wants to promote. It feels a lot like the general “quality” craze in the 80s that started with Japanese companies and at first, U.S. and European manufacturers didn’t really understand. They would try “quality” programs for a little bit, then fail, and the quality managers would lose their jobs.

Eventually, good product quality became expected by the consumer. You could buy a good quality product for the same as the cost of a bad quality product. So quality manufacturing became an expected part of doing business.

Unfortunately, most companies don't seem ready to think about data quality in the same we think about product quality. Actually, if you turn it around, and thought about product quality the way we think about data quality, I doubt you could drive your car out of the driveway in the morning. The wheels would fall off, the steering wheel wouldn't turn and the car probably wouldn't even start if the quality level of your automobile were as bad as most data environments.

Anyway, so what can anyone do about this? Well here is my short list of thoughts on the topic:

- Stop talking about data governance and data quality as an objective in and of itself.
-Focus on business value: What if we could reduce the number of miss-configured products? What if we could more easily measure the risk of our financial portfolio so we could keep less cash reserves on hand? What if we could more easily cross-sell and up-sell our customers?
- When you create value from good data governance, market that internally. Remind people the savings you are achieving every day as a result. If you don’t market the success, people won’t notice. This is one of the hardest things for an IT professional to do. We aren’t extroverts by nature.
- Don’t call what you are doing data governance. Just do it, measure it, measure the value, then declare your success from the mountain top later. Then go ask for more resources to do more of the good stuff you just did.

What other ideas do you all have about this? I know my list is pretty short, but I am sure that people reading this blog have additional thoughts, please share them.

Posted by Todd Goldman at February 20, 2008 10:45 PM


Good read. My thoughts: Not many visionaries out there, lots of purchases driven by compliance - and not many understanding the resulting and often unexpected business value/return. Not many companies/individuals will educate themselves on these topics, let alone make inve$tment$.

Posted by: Gus Diaz at August 5, 2008 11:52 AM

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