Does your company consider its data to be a strategic asset? And even more important, do you not only consider it to be an asset, but are you also treating it as any other asset, like for example your staff or your office building?
In my 20 years of experience in all areas of Data and Information Management, I worked for a number of companies, who claimed to understand the importance and potential value of their data, but struggled to live up to this understanding. And still, up to today, many companies I visit are not taking full benefit of the wealth of information that is stored in their systems.
In today’s world, with more and more data being available from more and more sources, it is no surprise that companies are seriously looking into the opportunities provided by Big Data and Analytics to drive their business. In order to be successful in these areas, I always recommend them to start with the basics, which is the core data in their systems (Descriptive Analytics). The picture basically gives the same message in a very simple way.While many companies have made significant investments in these areas, executives still feel that they are not gaining the insights they need to make better decisions and improve business outcomes (Predictive Analytics).
Information as an asset
As with any other asset, data needs to be managed. And this is where we touch on the importance of Data Governance. Data Governance deals with all the rules, policies, roles, responsibilities and tools that an organization needs to put in place to ensure data is accurate, consistent, complete, available and secure.
In the past months I had the honor to co-host workshop/expert sessions at conferences in Berlin (Annual Pan-European MDM Conference) and the Netherlands (Annual Conference Information Management). In these interactive sessions I addressed the importance of Data Governance and engaged in lively discussions with participants on their experiences on implementing Data Governance.
For all participants it was clear that with the overwhelming amounts of data and rules and regulations around it, managing data is becoming essential for it to be more efficient and effective. However, it also became clear that a lot of companies still struggle with a lack of integrated information and, for example, a single view of their customers or vendors. The reasons for this turned out to be very simple sometimes. As an example it was mentioned that it is easier to create a new master record than search if one already exists, leading to large numbers of duplicated vendors or customer records. With this as one of the many barriers and constrains, most companies indicated that their executives struggle to use or even trust information they get as the basis for strategic decisions.
Fundamental shift in Organizational thinking
Companies that claimed to take data seriously shared a number of best practices they applied to get to a level of maturity in data management. It was interesting to notice that a lot of these best practices were focused on implementing elements of Data Governance, like a dedicated data management team, establishing ownership/accountability of data in the business and active support of senior management. Successful companies also realized that really treating data as an asset requires a fundamental shift in thinking in an organization, almost to the level of a change in culture.
With these sessions in mind, I am very pleased to see that a growing number of companies start to understand the potential value of their data as a key business enabler and are seriously looking into the added value of master data management and other data quality solutions. Cornerstone for all these initiatives, in my view, is the implementation of data governance. I would even argue that it can be seen as a prerequisite for all data and information related initiatives, ranging from data cleansing to the implementation of analytics.