Open Framework, Information Management Strategy & Collaborative Governance | Data & Social Methodology - MIKE2.0 Methodology
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Who owns the data

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Many organizations struggle doing basic data management, a problem recently compounded by the following trends:

  • poor economic conditions have led to many layoffs, increasing the amount of work in an organization suffering from a dearth of human resources.
  • the massive explosion in unstructured data.
  • regulatory requirements stemming from accounting scandals, such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the United States.

This article describes three viewpoints surrounding data ownership.

IT Owns the Data

Historically, many organizations have operated with the belief that the IT department owns the data. Data owners sat behind computers all day, whether they were giant mainframes, terminals, giant servers, or PCs. End users in different lines of business (LOB) would typically request from IT reports, extracts of data, and the like. Any problems with data were assumed to be IT's fault--and responsibility to fix. 

Needless to say, IT folks typically became agitated when business users would blame IT for poor data management. While IT is certainly not perfect, more often than not IT merely presented data to business users that they latter created, modified, or deleted. In other words, IT was merely the messenger and didn't appreciate being killed. 

Despite this limitation, technology and tools did not up until fairly recently allow laypeople to access organizational information in easy ways. IT "owned" the data because end users could not easily view core records. Over the last ten years, this has changed quite a bit.

The Business Owns the Data

The consumerization of IT has done many things, not the least of which is to democratize information throughout the enterprise. No longer do people only utilize computers at work; rather, they are constantly interacting with all sorts of network devices. From a data ownership perspective, this has empowered everyday folks in the workplace. Equipped with powerful tools and an expectation that they can "fish for themselves", they are no longer relying on IT to own and provide the data--at least to the same extent as a few years ago. 

Consider custom reporting. For example, in the mid-1990s, one needed to know how to write code (such as SQL statements) to extract data from an enterprise system (beyond standard reports, of course). Today, nothing could be further from the truth. While some level of programming proficiency remains helpful, even moderately skilled end users can pull basic data from simple tables. Because they can now see what they have entered into the system "on the front end", many people in LOBs now understand and fully appreciate the fact that "bad data" isn't IT's fault. It's theirs.

Joint or Co-Ownership

Many organizations have yet to completely bridge the chasm with respect to data ownership. While IT may be no longer completely held responsible for data ownership, LOBs have yet to entirely step up to the plate. As such, data governance and ownership are joint efforts with equal representation from IT and the LOBs. Working in concert, they attempt to solve data-oriented problems and proactively prevent new ones from occurring. 

In circumstance such as these, IT is (perhaps justifiably) a bit reluctant to cede control of traditional functions. For their part, LOBs have not fully embraced the ownership train of thought. Through a partnership, however, the two can work in concert to promote effective data ownership throughout the organization.

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