Back in 2017, I wrote an article titled There are No Facts … Without Data. It is time to revisit that topic. The overwhelmingly positive response to that article validated for me that most people believed my premise to be true. I was very thankful to see that.
In this anti-fact world (watch cable news and you will see it everywhere) where facts often ride in the back seat, it is time to bring the facts back to the buckets (driver’s seat). The way to do that is to provide an antidote that counteracts the poisonous environment being portrayed all around us. The antidote is the data required to make a fact … a fact.
You may ask the question, “What is poisonous about the anti-fact atmosphere around us?” The answer is simple. If we start believing what is not true and what is not supported by facts, our behavior will disintegrate, we will start doing the absolute wrong things and the world will “evolve” into chaos. Facts require data. There are no facts without data.
Think about the actions your organization may take when they do not have the data to support the “facts” they are provided to make decisions. Some of these actions could be: to enter incorrect markets, develop and produce the wrong products, and provide solutions that do harm rather than good. These problems only scratch the surface of the damage that can occur from making decisions based on invalid assumptions. Decisions are always better when they are based on facts. Facts are only facts if there is data to support them.
An antidote is a substance that can counteract a form of poisoning. In nature, poisoning can come from spiders and snakes (I don’t like them) and other venomous animals (as well as other sources). Poisons are potentially lethal if they provoke allergic reactions and induce anaphylactic shock. Most people (everybody?) avoid poison at all cost. Why don’t organizations avoid poison the same way?
Managing data as an asset and assuring that there is appropriate data to make decisions becomes the job of us data management folks. One problem we see is that organizations do not always emphasize data management and data governance or provide the necessary resources to excel in data management or data governance. This is an age old problem.
Organizations and companies must recognize that the value of their facts (or umm the value of their data) depends on a planning and resource commitment. The improvement of the value of having quality and understandable (documented by metadata) data depends on those same plans and resources. Yet organizations continue to struggle because the data problem they have are so complex – and so contagious.
The data problems can be a result of many things. The organization can grow through mergers and acquisitions and thus the data becomes set disparate sources that were all supplied independently. The organization’s data can become a spaghetti mess when there is little or no coordination in the development and delivery of mismatched systems that cannot speak to each other. The organization’s data can become messy, or some may say poisonous, if the data is not documented and there is no formal accountability for, or understanding of, that data. The organization’s data can become unruly if the organization is battling its data demons.
Senior Leadership asks a lot of questions and they get particularly peeved when they get different answers from different people. People use data to answer their questions and assume that the way they are going about determining their answers is correct. But people have different understanding of the data and the data they use, or the understanding they have at that data, turns the facts they provide into best guesses. Senior Leadership does not want best guesses. Best guesses are poisonous.
Senior Leadership want data they can understand and trust that will lead them to the facts they require to be successful. Formal Data Governance, Data Stewardship, Data Management and, dare I say, Data Leadership (Thanks, Anthony Algmin, for emphasizing the importance of leadership!) is required to provide the antidote to their data and fact problems. Hiring a Chief Data Officer (CDO) by itself will not solve the problem.
The only true antidote to the data illness that many organizations suffer from, is for organizations to demonstrate Data Leadership resulting in formal Data Governance and auditable Data Management. Otherwise, the organizations will remain unhealthy. The organization may prosper, but then again it might not, depending on whether or not they suffer from an adverse reaction or go into devastating shock from bad data.
In the article from the spring of 2017, I presented and explained three facts people should keep in mind when it comes to facts:
- There is ALWAYS data to support facts.
- A fact does not have to be believable for it to be a fact.
- People will believe what they want to believe.
These facts remain true and will always be true. That’s a fact.
In today’s world of people believing what they want to believe, we are all in peril. The same may hold true for your organization. Don’t let that (being in peril) happen to you and your organization. Make certain that you have and apply the appropriate antidote to your fact problem. You will survive much longer and better that way.