Monday, July 8, 2013

The Bookbinder, the Librarian & a Data Governance story

Over the last few years I have worked upon several high end Data Governance programmes and listened to several excellent (and even more awful) Data Governance presentations at conferences.  I have also had the honour of sitting on the panel of judges at the annual Data Governance best practice awards.

Two of the recurring themes, irrespective of Industry sector are:
1) How do you make the "business case" for Data Governance; and 
2) How best to encourage "the business" to take real ownership responsibility for data.

I intend to cover the first point in more detail in a separate blog posting, but for now the key thing to mention is to keep the case "real". Make it relevant to real business problems that are or have been encountered. Collect "horror stories" (note: please don't use the phrase "burning platforms" for horror stories if you ever intend to work in the Oil & Gas sector).  Armed with the horror stories develop strategies that demonstrate how the proposed DG approach would have trapped these (I like to use simple swim lane diagrams to illustrate these scenarios) and then develop interim transition organisation structures for the client to migrate to.

Moving to the "ownership" question, just how can you best encourage "the business" to take real ownership responsibility for data?  Firstly I hate the term "the business" but I'm not going to get all prissy and go on about that.
The challenge many people face regarding Business Ownership of data in the context of a Data Governance strategy is that most business folks either a) kind of assume its IT who do this anyway; and b) have little frame of reference as to what's actually involved ... what does the "own the data" really mean?  To many it sounds like extra work!

Trying to come up with a meaningful story or analogy relating to Data Ownership has proven difficult.
Then a few weeks ago whilst interviewing several CxO's during a DG strategy at a big Bank I had a light bulb moment.  In the fabulously lush offices were bookcases with some of the old ledgers from the banks early days.

During our discussions we reminisced about the days when the Accountants & Bankers would, using their best copperplate hand writing enter details into the ledgers in best double entry book keeping style.  They would also add to separate ledgers details of debtors and creditors.   Sometimes this would be done initially on vine vellum or parchment paper and then passed to the bookbinders to beautifully bind these together inside leather book covers and fabulous seam stitching.  Following this the bound ledgers would be filed by the librarians typically in date order but with additional customer index cards so that they could readily be accessed when required.

During our reminiscences, I said to the Bank CxO's "so it was the bookbinders who "owned" the data then as they controlled where it was stored?"
Light chortles ensued, so I replied, "well if not the bookbinders wasn't it the librarians who owned it as they were the people who controlled how it was indexed and archived to provide easy retrieval?"
No, no they said.  It's was the Chief Accountant or the Head Teller, or Account Manager who "owned" the data then as they were the real interface with the customers.

Ahhhh I smiled, so what's changed now?  Why have you passed "ownership" to the modern day bookbinders and librarians ie IT?

The "light bulb" revelation moment was priceless. At that point they got it.
Now I realise any analogy can be picked apart & before IT folks get too defensive I know there's more they do, however the analogy worked for these guys.
From this point on in our discussion, the concept of business ownership of data was firmly accepted. Following the CxO's endorsement of the DG programme the organisation structures, roles and responsibilities are slotting in nicely.  A key enabler to this program's success is getting the hearts & minds culture change message sorted and providing on-going mentoring to the Data owners.
IT are fully bought in & still "own" the technical systems environments whilst playing a major part in data custodianship.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Data Governance is about Hearts and Minds, not Technology

Unsurprisingly, the principal point of discussion at FIMA 2012 was the area of information management and the rise of its importance within the finance sector. With regulatory pressure driving interest – hardly something the finance industry is not used to! – along with the proposed legal entity identifier which is pushing all businesses to have a growing and willing demand for detailed, even real-time, knowledge, information management was a topic that permeated almost every discussion at the three day event in London.

Of course, increasing awareness and debate around this topic can surely only be good news for the industry. There is clear benefit in those in the finance sector now realising that failure to manage data effectively – and therefore conform to legislative and regulatory requirements – can have catastrophic effects, resulting in imprisonment as well as businesses being shut down. After all, where other sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, have been deploying information management systems for some time, in the finance arena it is a surprisingly relatively new concept.

Therefore, the interesting workshops dedicated to information management at FIMA 2012 were very welcome and apt, however these could have held more relevance through cross-industry comparisons. Had these presentations and workshops shown delegates examples of successful deployments of information management systems and processes in a relatively comparative industry, than those who were slightly on the fence about the need for information management would have left with a solid understanding of how such a system can really benefit a business.

On a related note, the drive for organisations to hire a Chief Data Officer was also highlighted at FIMA 2012. It is becoming glaringly apparent that the role of a CIO (largely though their typical 
experience) is solely to manage IT systems and infrastructure, and information management rarely 
therefore goes beyond its protection and storage. In order to instead manage data appropriately as a corporate asset, organisations must therefore hire or internally develop an individual to take responsibility and ensure this data governance – a trend I would actively encourage in the near future.

Overall, FIMA 2012 stoked the coals of a rising Information management emphasis within the finance sector. It is apparent that the industry is thankfully now seeing such activity as a necessity. Whether this is through fear of legislative backlash or a drive to improve efficiency and visibility is largely immaterial, provided there is a recognition that a failure to store, manage and use data appropriately is likely to lead to regulatory or customer service-related horror stories being unveiled at FIMA 2013.