Fix the “Data Situation”

FEA02x - edited feature imageWhat would you do with your data (i.e. what type of analytics would you run) if you had the data to support doing it and you had confidence in the quality of that data? What questions would you ask? What behavior would you predict? What relationships would you look for? These are all questions that need to be asked of executives around the globe.

Executives that are looking into the future are finding that they do not necessarily have the data they need to support these capabilities. This is becoming a big problem for organizations that believe they are leading the way in their use of information technology. They have data problems.

As leadership recognizes that there is a data problem standing in their way of taking full advantage of their information technology investments, the door has “popped” open wide to address what some call the “Data Situation.” Sounds mysterious but the truth is … it is not. Improving data to improve analytical capabilities can be the gateway to addressing larger data situations. Data practitioners should ride the coattails of their leadership, looking to improve analytical capabilities to develop and apply a data strategy, as well as apply data governance to their most critical data.

Allow me to share a handful of so-called “Data Situations”:

  • Situation 1: The data that you use in your job is decent quality. The data is there but you have to spend significant time massaging the data to get it the way you like it.
  • Situation 2: Data is missing. There are specific pieces of data that you focus on to evaluate performance and it is a struggle to get that data or trust that data at its face value.
  • Situation 3: You request data to complete your job and often it feels like you have to jump through hoops to get access to that data. The process is slow. There are levels upon levels of approvers.
  • Situation 4: Data from outside of your corporate is inconsistent from division to division. Some divisions provide high-quality data while others scrap together spreadsheets to submit.
  • Situation 5: People do not understand the difference in the data collected about a school loan versus the data collected about a home loan. You have single definitions of loan data while the collected data is for a different context. You have limited or no glossaries or dictionaries to share the appropriate data meaning at the appropriate time.

Data Situations stink. This handful of situations is really short and not as costly as making the wrong decision that causes a business impact, leaving sensitive data unprotected, or where you compare to your closest competitors. We all want to address the data situation as we know it.

Here are a few simple things that you can do right now to address a bad “Data Situation”:

The First Thing You Can Do

The first thing you can do is to come to the realization that your data can be better. There are several ways to do this. Often the efforts focus on the people of your organization. How do they feel about the data situation they deal with daily? Where do they spend their time? Do they trust the data, or better yet, why don’t they trust the data? Do they understand the data, and do they know where to go to get the data they need? How would they answer the question back at the beginning of this article?

The answers to these questions can be viewed one of two ways – as the impending key to Pandora’s Box or the key to the magic kingdom. No matter where you focus, on customer data and the customer experience, on product data and the definition of product, or on classification and protection of sensitive data, it is important to realize that there is room for improvement when it comes to your data situation.

The Second Thing You Can Do

The second thing you can do is identify a person or persons that will have time allocated to focus on correcting the data situation. This person or team should be responsible for researching, inventorying, cataloging, assessing, measuring, and maturing the data environment. Actually, there really needs to be two people. A person who is accountable for making certain the data situation gets better and then someone that is responsible for the activities mentioned in this paragraph.

The truth is that without someone who is accountable and responsible for the data strategy or data governance, the discipline will fail. That, of course, holds true for any type of discipline you are trying to apply and not just data management.

In many organizations, it is normal practice that the accountable person is at higher organizational management level than the person in the responsible role.  The accountable person often reports to top brass that the responsibility has been carried out successfully.

The Third Thing You Can Do

The third thing you can do is build the immaculate business case for the need to improve data and information across your organization. There may already be somebody responsible for this activity. You may know of them— or you may not. But likely somewhere in your halls there is a person or there are people that want to build a business case for governing and improving your data situation. Search them out. Share your story and add to the business case.

Or better yet, take a role in driving the effort to build that business case. It must be demonstrated to leadership that the value of data goes beyond the nice-to-have when it comes to the daily operations and the business decision making.

The business case must demonstrate the present data situation compared to industry best practice, the gap and risk associated with that gap, and the steps that can be taken to instill a formal data strategy and data governance program. Then, and only then, you can show them the true business case and the effort required to improve the data situation.

Executives are finding that they do not have the data they need to support the new capabilities of the expanding data analytics space. Data has become a big problem for organizations that believe they are leading the way in their use of information technology. There is a data situation.

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Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. Seiner

Robert (Bob) S. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services and the Publisher Emeritus of The Data Administration Newsletter. Seiner is a thought-leader in the fields of data governance and metadata management. KIK (which stands for “knowledge is king”) offers consulting, mentoring and educational services focused on Non-Invasive Data Governance, data stewardship, data management and metadata management solutions. Seiner is the author of the industry’s top selling book on data governance – Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success (Technics Publications 2014) and the followup book - Non-Invasive Data Governance Strikes Again: Gaining Experience and Perspective (Technics 2023), and has hosted the popular monthly webinar series on data governance called Real-World Data Governance (w Dataversity) since 2012. Seiner holds the position of Adjunct Faculty and Instructor for the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College Chief Data Officer Executive Education program.

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