Guest Perspective

Jane Griffin

Strong data governance is as important to data management as the technology, says Jane Griffin, a Technology Integration principal at Deloitte Consulting.

Perform in harmony

Enterprise data management empowers a comprehensive BI solution.

Considering the growth of data in terms of sheer volume and complexity, managing the information is crucial. Along with the capture of traditional corporate and external data, the data infrastructure is being challenged to incorporate social networking, collaboration in open forums and unstructured data. Additionally, many companies struggle with dozens of tools, vendors and databases, resulting in a lack of cohesiveness in data and platforms.

Organizations have become reliant on “human middleware” for data management. Human middleware consists of the resources that collect data from multiple application databases and integrate it into spreadsheets or independent data marts, often causing quality, timing and reconciliation issues. Critical organizational reporting is too often dependent upon hundreds of people using dozens of business intelligence (BI) tools and drawing data from multiple sources. In the end, this approach leaves management wondering why decision makers can’t get the same answer to the same question, and no time is left for critical analysis.

Organizations require good information in difficult times, even more than they do in good times. Financial institutions need better insight into risk management and profitability; retailers need to improve the intimacy with their customers; all companies need to control costs, analyze financial results and have BI at their fingertips like never before. This type of BI access is difficult to achieve without a strong data governance and data management process that delivers information in an integrated data environment.

Harmonizing and managing enterprise data management (EDM) enables organizations to consistently deliver critical information to people at the right time. To deliver EDM, a strategy is needed that defines all foundational components, including BI, master data management (MDM), data integration and enterprise resource planning (ERP). That strategy must also provide the ability to locate, retrieve, manage and deliver all organizational information for use in internal processes and decisions as well as external communications.

Take ownership

The data management challenge demands a proper workflow, synchronizing information based on a consistent data model and common data architecture. For that, you need not only technology but also a strong data governance model. That’s where EDM comes in. When creating this type of management structure:

Create proper leadership

An organization responsible for EDM should be established. It should not be led solely by IT—the business must take charge with support and co-ownership from IT. Information assets should be housed by IT but owned and defined by the business. Having that mind-set is a large but necessary leap for most organizations.

Critical organizational reporting is too often dependent upon hundreds of people using dozens of BI tools and drawing data from multiple sources.

Appoint data stewards

An executive sponsor from the business side should provide oversight and direction. This “chief data officer” must be at a level that commands respect throughout the organization and can get things done. In addition, the data management team—drawn from different business areas and heavily supported by IT—is required to bring together a cross-section of individuals based on geography, function and operating units, supportive of the size and scale of the initiative being planned.

Assign data management tasks

Within this structure, roles and responsibilities should be established to drive change and data ownership. For example, someone on the data management team might be responsible for evaluating vendors, while another is designated to monitor data synchronization and quality on a daily basis. Functional, geographical and divisional data managers can report results to data stewards about the status of data. Most of these roles do not constitute a full-time job, so they can be balanced with other duties. Keep in mind that such efforts are integral to establishing accountability and meeting performance expectations. At many companies, data management processes and organizations have yet to be put in place. So, to ensure their success, standards must be created that facilitate open communication and empower individuals.

Tap into a compelling event

Evolving federal regulations often drive strategic change in organizations, but other developments are also catalysts for change. A corporate merger that brings together disparate systems or a global initiative, such as finance, customer or supply chain transformation, can create an EDM imperative.

Roll out incrementally

While compelling events often demand enterprise-wide change, it is wise to first pilot data management initiatives by function, geography or division—or a slice of these. “Big bang” approaches rarely work. It’s more effective to incubate a data management project in a single function, location or division, build sponsorship, and then roll out to others over time.

Leverage technology

Harmonization and management of operational data quality, security and information delivery require a significant commitment to technology. A common data architecture that supports evolving demand through scalability and flexibility will provide the optimal and most cost-effective solution.

Enabling this functionality and architecture requires a high-performance data warehouse and data management environment, plus an MDM hub to ensure that operational and analytical data can be aggregated at all levels of the organization. For that, you need a data warehouse architecture with the power and availability to take detailed data, aggregate it in seconds and deliver it to the people who drive strategic decisions, from forecasting to risk management.

Now more than ever

In the end, creating intelligence around data management isn’t just about the tools and technology—although they are necessary elements. It’s also about developing enterprise ownership and accountability of high-quality information. EDM is a journey that starts with the business case that answers many questions:

  • What is the value of the information asset to the organization?
  • Do I have processes in governance, architectural, structural and data management areas that enhance this asset or diminish it?
  • How am I capitalizing on the value of this asset?

EDM has always been important, but now, during these challenging economic times, it’s critical to improve customer intimacy and retention, control costs, boost operational efficiency, and implement strong financial and risk management. The return on information assets will deliver high value to those organizations that make the right investments.

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