Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/24/data_governance/
Data governance and the holy grail
Data workers of the world unite
Yes, I know this sounds a bit like the eighth Harry Potter book. In fact, what I want to discuss are some implications of data governance that I don't think everyone has thought through yet.
Let me start by assuming that you have gone the whole hog over data governance. That is, you have set up a data governance council, you have data stewards in place, and so on. Moreover, you have not limited data governance just to data quality but have extended it to cover anything to do with data, including security, availability, accessibility, compliance and so forth. Further, the business has bought in to the whole idea of data governance (in fact, you probably can't do it without business buy-in).
Now, let's change the subject. It is, arguably, the holy grail of IT to bring IT closer to the business so that the two work closely in tandem. But that has been the holy grail for years and it hasn't happened: you still get applications delivered that don't do what the users want, they still don't speak the same language, and a chasm still exists in most organisations. Why?
I think one part of the problem is that IT departments take a siloed approach to interactions with the business. If you are in IT and are working on new business processes for the HR department then the people that you deal with are in the HR department, while your colleagues working on a new CRM system are talking to the guys in sales.
In other words, there is no holistic approach to this interaction, just a series of independent touch points. Moreover, there is no realistic chance of this changing since the exigencies of the situation force this approach.
However, this is not true of data governance. In a fully implemented data governance organisation you have touch points across business operations. Data governance therefore offers the potential to bring IT closer to the business in a way that application level interaction never will. Given the holistic capabilities of data governance I would therefore argue that CIOs should actively be looking to use it in this way: to drive towards the holy grail.
But this is not the end of the story. In most IT shops the people with the prestige and the power are the application guys, the people who look after and manage the data tend to lack both of these things.
Now, imagine a situation where data governance is leading the drive towards bringing IT closer to the business. Who is it that the business meets with? Who has a holistic understanding of the business' needs? Who is it that the business sees as understanding those needs?
The answer, of course, is the people who look after the data. This, in turn, will mean that kudos will accrue in the data management arena and these people will gain power and prestige at the expense of the developers.
In other words, data governance not only has the potential to bring the IT department closer to the business it also has the potential to upset the status quo within IT itself. Developers may not like it, but there is the possibility of real revolution within IT. So, there you have it: data workers of the world unite.
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