Data sins
By Mark Dexter
10th November 2014

There was a time when data managers were simply required to…well, manage data. But in the era of Big Data, Information Management professionals are increasingly called upon to bridge the worlds of analytics, business intelligence, strategy and enterprise planning. Your data work must have real relevance, and add real value, to your organisation, and connect the IT department with the company’s overall objectives.

What’s more, you must convince the rest of the organisation, from the C-suite to the front lines, that data governance is a vital component of your company’s success. Big Data no longer serves simply to support business objectives, but increasingly drives planning and strategy to deliver positive outcomes.

So how do you evangelise for Big Data and convert your non-believers? And how do you avoid stumbling along the path? We suggest you avoid the temptations of what we’re calling “The Seven Deadly Sins” of data management.

Lust: A feeling of intense desire.

We’re all drawn to shiny new gadgets and systems but must ask ourselves how they fit in to operational objectives. Don’t lust after dazzling KPI dashboards with their come-hither graphics. Establish meaningful business KPIs and ensure your data is accurate first.

Gluttony: Over-consumption to the point of waste.

Let us learn from the parable of the company who over-specced on IT software and hardware, spending millions of pounds on a new data warehouse that never had more than 3 users at its peak. Don’t dismiss due diligence; get some sense of user requirements and concerns before overindulging.

Greed: The pursuit of material goods.

Are you clawing for enterprise resources by over-engineering processes that require huge teams and budgets? Reflect on whether you’re hiring more and more people, rather than examining ways in which you might be more agile, and allocate assets appropriately.

Sloth: Physical – or spiritual – laziness.

It’s no good being excited about a Big Data project if you don’t actually get up from your desk and talk to people about it. Deliver presentations that will achieve buy-in, engage with end-users – in other words, get out there and preach. Most of all, work hard enough to ensure your project is a success.

Wrath: Anger, sometimes to the point of self-destruction.

Don’t have an axe to grind, or try to work out a personal agenda, by aggressively overpromising on a project in order to justify costs, for example. Incurring the wrath of others is best avoided as well: learn to better manage expectations and facilitate the understanding that data delivers wins in small incremental gains, rather than in one big jackpot.

Envy: Coveting what others have.

It’s difficult not to look at marketing teams with their big budgets, or teams that aren’t limited by being assessed against TCO, without feeling a twinge of jealousy. While the distribution of resources isn’t always equitable, every team’s role within the business is equally valuable. Commit to proving Big Data’s worth by providing exceptional return on investment.

Pride: The belief that one is essentially better than others.

Avoid IT vanity projects that involve delivering expensive systems that the business hasn’t asked for. If there isn’t a project owner outside the IT department, who are you really doing this for? Ask yourself if the project will truly have an impact on the business – or is it just to make your team look good?

We’d like to know what you think. What other deadly sins have you seen on the road to excellence in data governance? Please share your comments with us!

Comments

"Fix data early. If something can be validated out, then do that, rather than trying to cleanse it with complex ETL." - Paul Simon

"A little preprocessing, like say sorting the input at the os, can also help, if its not a stream, and it’s an available option for your user profile." - Drew Georgopulos

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