Several years ago, I wrote an article called the Data Governance Bill of “Rights.” I also speak often about my Bill of “Rights” in many of my webinars and presentations. Please notice that I put the word “rights” in quotations. By rights, I do not mean human rights, or the freedoms to claim equality based on personal freedom, or the exemption from the presence of anything. My Bill of “Rights” focus on doing the right thing. When it comes to data governance and data management, doing the right things in terms of data is at the heart of the discipline.
My Data Governance Bill of “Rights” focuses on getting the right people, involved at the right time, in the right way, using the right data, to make the right decision, leading to the right outcome (at least most of the time). That, my friend, is what data governance is all about. While I define data governance as “the execution and enforcement of authority over the definition, production and usage of data,” the truth is that data governance is typically not successful unless the “rights” are all achieved.
What do I mean by saying ‘there is never a “right” time for data’? Another way to ask that question may be, ‘When is the “right” time for data’? My answer could go two directions:
Never a Right Time for Data
The first answer, and thus direction, is that the time for working on data is never right because improvements can always be made to how we manage our data – there is no end. That sounds ominous. No matter how hard we work on our improving how we manage and govern our data, there is always going to be more work to be done. Therefore, the time is never “right”. That answer may take an unpromising approach.
“The time is never right for data.”
If you are a person who works in the data management or data governance space, and you are expecting your work to come to some ultimate completion, you may be in the wrong business. Data governance and data management are discipline where there never is an end. The disciplines are called programs and not projects because programs typically have no end.
I was asked by a client, a Chief Financial Officer, “How many data stewards are we going to need and how long are we going to need them for?” You may already know my answer to the “how many” question. I always say that “Everybody is Data Steward … Get Over It.”
The answer to the “how long” question took the CFO by surprise. I looked the CFO in the eye and asked him, “How long do you want to have quality data?” I could have also asked the question, “How long do you want to protect your sensitive data?” The unspoken response would have been the same. You always want to have quality data and you always want to protect sensitive data. The CFO looked back at me, winked and said, “I get it!” And he got it.
Data is always going to be a thorn in the rosy side of any organization. There is always work to be done. There are always improvements to be made. If you have solved all of your data problems and you are managing your data perfectly, just wait until tomorrow, or the next hour, or next minute. Data governance and data management always have issues to address and opportunities to improve. Again, that is why we call the disciplines a program. Because there is no end. And the fact that there is no end provides job security to those people that know how to efficiently and effectively solve data problems or address opportunities to improve your data. The time for data is never “right.”
But then again, the time for data is always “right.” The second answer to the ‘When is the “right” time for data?’ question is “Now!” Now is the right time for data. Now is the right time to address your data issues and to address your opportunities to improve.
Now is the Right Time for Data
Organizations have never relied on their data as much as they rely on their data today. And tomorrow there will be increased need to rely on your data. This is obvious by the way companies are looking to differentiate themselves from other organizations through their data. This is obvious by the way companies are looking for a competitive advantage through their data. This is obvious by the onset of new data technologies that are becoming the focus of many large investments that organization are making.
“The time is right now for data.”
These investments may focus on utilizing cloud technology, the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), completing a digital transformation or becoming a data-centric organization. These investments may focus on consolidating information systems or any initiative that has the word “One” in front of it – One CRM, One ERP, One Company or one nation under … Okay you get my point. All of these technologies and initiatives focus on data.
The return that organizations get from investing in these technologies and initiatives are dependent on their use of data. The better the data, the better the return on investment (ROI). I am known to say a lot of things (and some of them make sense while others …). I also tell organizations that it is difficult to measure ROI from their data governance and data management initiatives (although management is not typically happy with that answer). True ROI from data governance and data management comes from the return organizations gain from the organization’s investments in other data technologies and initiatives.
Poor data being included in these technologies and initiatives often decrease the return organizations get from these things. You would have thought that organizations would have learned that lesson from the development and deployment of data warehouses and data lakes. It is common for people to believe that data lakes with ungoverned and unmanaged data, or data that people do not have confidence in, become “data swamps.” Swamp-like is the term used for things that become quagmires or sloughs. In other words, data predicaments (messes) or places where pigs are fed from. Management does not appreciate data swamps or data warehouses that do not meet their requirements or return on investment.
The time for data governance and data management is now. Now is the right time for data in general. The quicker data practitioners can get their leadership to support, sponsor and understand the need for data discipline, the quicker we become closer to solving data problems and addressing data opportunities. The true answers lie “All in the Data.” Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you, the people you hold near and dear, your colleagues and your organizations. There is no time like the present for data. Best wishes for a better year ahead when it comes to … basically everything. 2020 was difficult. Let’s make 2021 a better year. Let’s start by becoming better data managers and getting more value from our data.