Posts Tagged ‘Information Governance’
Before the advances of twentieth century medicines, doctors were often deliberately opaque. They were well known for proscribing remedies for patients that were for little more than placebos. To encourage a patient’s confidence, much of what they wrote was intentionally unintelligible. As medicine has advanced, even as it has gotten more complicated, outcomes for patients are enhanced by increasing their understanding.
In fact, the public love to understand the services and products that they use. Diners love it when restaurants make their kitchens open to view. Not only is it entertaining, it also provides confidence in what’s happening behind the scenes.
As buildings have become smarter and more complex, far from needing to hide the workings, architects have gone in the opposite direction with an increasing number of buildings making their technology a feature. It is popular, and practical, to leave structural supports, plumbing and vents all exposed.
This is a far cry from the world of the 1960s and 1970s when cladding companies tried to make cheap buildings look like they were made of brick or other expensive materials. Today we want more than packaging, we want the genuine article underneath. We want honest architecture, machinery and services that we can understand.
I find it fascinating that so many people choose to wear expensive watches that keep time through mechanical mechanisms when the same function can be achieved through a great looking ten dollar digital watch. I think people are prepared to pay thousands when they believe in the elegance and function of what sits inside the case. Many of these watches actually hint at some of those mechanics with small windows or gaps where you can see spinning cogs.
The turnaround of Apple seemed to start with the iMac, a beautiful machine that had a coloured but transparent case, exposing to the world the workings inside.
So it is with business where there are cheap ways of achieving many goals. New products and services can be inserted into already cluttered offerings and it can all be papered over by a thin veneer of customer service and digital interfaces that try to hide the complexity. These are the equivalent of the ten dollar watch.
I had a recent experience of a business that was not transparent. After six months, I noticed a strange charge had been appearing on my telephone bill. The company listing the charges claimed that somewhere we had agreed to their “special offer”. They could not tell us how we had done it and were happy to refund the charges. The real question, of course, is how many thousands of people never notice and never claim the charges back?
Whether it is government, utilities, banking or retail, our interactions with those that provide us products and services are getting more complex. We can either hide the complexity by putting artificial facades over the top (such as websites with many interfaces) or embrace the complexity through better design. I have previously argued that cognitive analytics, in the form of artificial intelligence would reduce the workforce employed to manage complexity (see Your insight might protect your job) but this will do nothing to improve the customer experience.
Far from making people feel that business is simpler, the use of data through analytics in this way can actually make them feel that they have lost even more control. Increasingly they choose the simpler option such as being a guest on a single purpose website rather than embracing a full service provider that they do not understand.
Target in the US had this experience when their data analytics went beyond the expectations of what was acceptable to their customers (see The Incredible Story Of How Target Exposed A Teen Girl’s Pregnancy)
In this age of Big Data, good data governance is an integral part of the customer experience. We are surrounded by more and more things happening that go beyond our expectation. These things can seem to happen as if by magic and lead us to a feeling of losing control in our interactions with businesses.
Just as there is a trend to open factories to the public to see how things are made, we should do the same in our intellectual pursuits. As experts in our respective fields, we need to be able to not only achieve an outcome but also demonstrate how we got there.
I explained last month how frustrating it is when customer data isn’t used (see Don’t seek to know everything about your customer). Good governance should seek to simplify and explain how both business processes and the associated data work and are applied.
The pressure for “forget me” legislation and better handling of data breaches will be alleviated by transparency. Even better, customers will enjoy using services that they understand.
While security and privacy issues prevent sensitive data from being shared (e.g., customer data containing personal financial information or patient data containing personal health information), do you have access to data that would be more valuable if you shared it with the rest of your organization—or perhaps the rest of the world?
We are all familiar with the opposite of data sharing within an organization—data silos. Somewhat ironically, many data silos start with data that was designed to be shared with the entire organization (e.g., from an enterprise data warehouse), but was then replicated and customized in order to satisfy the particular needs of a tactical project or strategic initiative. This customized data often becomes obsolesced after the conclusion (or abandonment) of its project or initiative.
Data silos are usually denounced as evil, but the real question is whether the data hoarded within a silo is sharable—is it something usable by the rest of the organization, which may be redundantly storing and maintaining their own private copies of the same data, or are the contents of the data silo something only one business unit uses (or is allowed to access in the case of sensitive data).
Most people decry data silos as the bane of successful enterprise data management—until you expand the scope of data beyond the walls of the organization, where the enterprise’s single version of the truth becomes a cherished data asset (i.e., an organizational super silo) intentionally siloed from the versions of the truth maintained within other organizations, especially competitors.
We need to stop needlessly replicating and customizing data—and start reusing and sharing data.
Historically, replication and customization had two primary causes:
- Limitations in technology (storage, access speed, processing speed, and a truly sharable infrastructure like the Internet) meant that the only option was to create and maintain an internal copy of all data.
- Proprietary formats and customized (and also proprietary) versions of common data was viewed as a competitive differentiation—even before the recent dawn of the realization that data is a corporate asset.
Hoarding data in a proprietary format and viewing “our private knowledge is our power” must be replaced with shared data in an open format and viewing “our shared knowledge empowers us all.”
This is an easier mantra to recite than it is to realize, not only within an organization or industry, but even more so across organizations and industries. However, one of the major paradigm shifts of 21st century data management is making more data publicly available, following open standards (such as MIKE2.0) and using unambiguous definitions so data can be easily understood and reused.
Of course, data privacy still requires sensitive data not be shared without consent, and competitive differentiation still requires intellectual property not be shared outside the organization. But this still leaves a vast amount of data, which if shared, could benefit our increasingly hyper-connected world where most of the boundaries that used to separate us are becoming more virtual every day. Some examples of this were made in the recent blog post shared by Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen about Winning by Sharing Data.
I like it when I stumble across examples of information management concepts. While working on a podcast interview with William McKnight discussing his new book Information Management: Strategies for Gaining a Competitive Advantage with Data, I asked William for a song recommendation to play as background music while I read his bio during the opening segment of the podcast.
After William emailed me an Apple iTunes audio file for the song “Mother North” off of the 1996 album Nemesis Divina by Norwegian black metal band Satyricon, I ran into an issue when I attempted to play the song on my computer that provides two points about the information security aspects of information governance:
- The need to establish a way to enforce information security so that only authorized users can access protected information. In this case, the protected information is a song purchased from the Apple iTunes store, where purchases are associated with both an Apple ID and the computer used to purchase it. This establishes an information security policy that is automatically enforced whenever the information is accessed. If a security violation is detected, in this case by attempting to play the song on another computer, the policy prevents the unauthorized access.
- Information security policies also have to allow for unexpected, but allowable, exceptions otherwise security becomes too restrictive and inconveniences the user. In this case, Apple iTunes allows a song to be played on up to 5 computers associated with the Apple ID used to purchase it. This is an excellent example of the need to combine portability and security by embedding a security policy as the information’s travel companion. Apple does not just prevent you from playing the song, but offers the ability to prove you are authorized to play it on another computer by entering your Apple ID and password.
The goal of information security is to protect information assets against intrusion or inappropriate access. Comprehensive security must not be limited to the system of origination but must travel with the information, especially as today’s mobile users need to access information from multiple devices.
Much like the hills are alive with the sound of music, make sure that your information governance policies are alive with the sound of sound information security, thus making your organization’s easily accessible while appropriately protected information assets music to your users’ ears.
The MIKE2.0 wiki defines the Chief Data Officer (CDO) as one that plays a key executive leadership role in driving data strategy, architecture, and governance as the executive leader for data management activities.
“Making the most of a company’s data requires oversight and evangelism at the highest levels of management,” Anthony Goldbloom and Merav Bloch explained in their Harvard Business Review blog post Your C-Suite Needs a Chief Data Officer.
Goldbloom and Bloch describe the CDO as being responsible for identifying how data can be used to support the company’s most important priorities, making sure the company is collecting the right data, and ensuring the company is wired to make data-driven decisions.
“I firmly believe the definition of a CDO role is a good idea,” Forrester analyst Gene Leganza blogged, but “there’s plenty to be worked out to make this effective. What would be the charter of this new role (and the organizational unit that would report to it), where would it report, and what roles would report into it? There are no easy answers as far as I can see.”
What about the CIO?
And if you are wondering whether your organization needs a CDO when you probably already have a Chief Information Officer (CIO), then “look at what we’ve asked CIOs to do,” Peter Aiken and Michael Gorman explained in their intentionally short book The Case for the Chief Data Officer. “They are responsible for infrastructure, application software packages, Ethernet connections, and everything in between. It’s an incredible range of jobs. If you look at a chief financial officer, they have a singular focus on finance, because finance and financial assets are a specific area the business cares about. Taking data as a strategic asset gives it unique capabilities, and when you take the characteristics of data and you see the breadth and scope of CIO functions, they don’t work together. It hasn’t worked, it’s not going to work, especially when you consider the other data plans coming down the pipeline.”
And there aren’t just other data plans coming down the pipeline. Our world is becoming, not just more data-driven, but increasingly data-constructed. “Global drivers have been shifting from valuing the making of things to the flow of intellectual capital,” Robert Hillard blogged. “This is the shift to an information economy which has most recently been dubbed digital disruption. There is no point, for instance, in complaining about there being less tax on music streaming than the manufacture, distribution, and sale of CDs. The value is just in a different place and most of it isn’t where it was.”
The Rise of a Second CDO?
“All businesses are now digital businesses,” Gil Press blogged. “The digitization of the entire business is spreading to all industries and all business functions and is threatening to make the central IT organization less relevant. Enter the newly-minted Chief Digital Officer expected to provide a unifying vision and develop a digital strategy, transforming existing processes and products and finding new digital-based profit and revenue opportunities. The role of the Chief Digital Officer is all about digital governance, the other CDO role—that of the Chief Data Officer—is all about data governance. With more and more digital data flowing throughout the organization, and going in and out through its increasingly porous borders, managing the quality, validity, and access to this asset is more important than ever.”
“The main similarity between the two roles,” Press explained, “is the general consensus that the new chiefs, whether of the digital or the data kind, should not report to the CIO. Theirs is a business function, while the CIO is perceived to be dealing with technology.”
“The CDO reports to the business,” Aiken and Gorman explained. “Business data architecture is a business function, not an IT function. In fact, the only data management areas that stay behind with the CIO are the actual development of databases and the tuning, backup, and recovery of the data delivery systems, with security shared between IT and the business.”
Hail to the Chiefs
“The central IT organization and CIOs may become irrelevant in the digital economy,” Press concluded. “Or, CIOs could use this opportunity to demonstrate leadership that is based on deep experience with and understanding of what data, big or small, is all about — its management, its analysis, and its use in the service of innovation, the driving force of any enterprise.”
The constantly evolving data-driven information economy is forcing enterprises to open their hailing frequencies to chiefs, both new and existing, sending a hail to the chiefs to figure out how data and information, and especially its governance, relate to their roles and responsibilities, and how they can collectively provide the corporate leadership needed in the digital age.
In his recent Harvard Business Review blog post Are You Data Driven? Take a Hard Look in the Mirror, Tom Redman distilled twelve traits of a data-driven organization, the first of which is making decisions at the lowest possible level.
This is how one senior executive Redman spoke with described this philosophy: “My goal is to make six decisions a year. Of course that means I have to pick the six most important things to decide on and that I make sure those who report to me have the data, and the confidence, they need to make the others.”
“Pushing decision-making down,” Redman explained, “frees up senior time for the most important decisions. And, just as importantly, lower-level people spend more time and take greater care when a decision falls to them. It builds the right kinds of organizational capability and, quite frankly, appears to create a work environment that is more fun.”
I have previously blogged about how a knowledge-based organization is built upon a foundation of bottom-up business intelligence with senior executives providing top-down oversight (e.g., the strategic aspects of information governance). Following Redman’s advice, the most insightful top-down oversight is driving decision-making to the lowest possible level of a data-driven organization.
With the speed at which decisions must be made these days, organizations can not afford to risk causing a decision-making bottleneck by making lower-level employees wait for higher-ups to make every business decision. While faster decisions aren’t always better, a shorter decision-making path is.
Furthermore, in the era of big data, speeding up your data processing enables you to integrate more data into your decision-making processes, which helps you make better data-driven decisions faster.
Well-constructed policies are flexible business rules that empower employees with an understanding of decision-making principles, trusting them to figure out how to best apply them in a particular context.
If you want to pull your organization, and its business intelligence, up to new heights, then push down business decisions to the lowest level possible. Arm your frontline employees with the data, tools, and decision-making guidelines they need to make the daily decisions that drive your organization.
In the current economic environment I expect we are going to hear a lot about the need for greater openness, transparency and better information. Too much regulation has been shown to hamper innovation, but free markets have their issues too – we’ve had 6 global collapses in the past 15 years after all.
I’m not sure what the right balance is, but Governance 2.0, which I mentioned in an earlier post and is one of the solutions in MIKE2.0, might indeed become a hot topic.
TODAY: Fri, March 24, 2017March2017