Taking the Easy Data Path, and Getting Away with It, for Now

Loraine Lawson

Recently, Gartner Analyst Andrew White shared a customer call wherein the client outlines a long list of reasons that anyone can tell points to a dire need for master data management.

In fact, it’d be difficult to dream up a situation more in need of MDM, since the company had:

  • Multiple mergers and acquisitions and more planned.
  • A heterogeneous IT environment, with a slew of app consolidation projects in the works.
  • Problems with product data.

The punch line: “No one in the business is interested in anything to do with MDM or information governance,” White writes. That’s unfortunate, but what’s even more depressing is his admission that the reason he’s sharing this encounter is because it’s actually pretty typical.

He says companies in this situation basically have two options. One, they can launch a data quality project and fix it, without MDM or any real over-arching information governance plan and then  “… within 17 seconds, the quality, consistency and overall integrity of the data in new shiny hub starts to erode,” he writes.

The other option also requires a data quality project, but instead of stopping there, the organization continues with the hard work of an enterprise-wide information management initiative, which will include MDM.

Sadly, even as he advocates for option number two, he knows they’re more likely to stop at number one.

At this point, you’re probably not surprised. It’s a bit disheartening, but not surprising. But then White added this:

“And the insidious thing about this conversation, and almost every one like it? The consultants are being paid very well, thank you, yet the client knows (not at the right level of the business) that there disease related to their data is just festering away nicely.”

I wish I knew what to say about that. His account seems contrary to those who say that executives are embracing information management beyond one-time data quality projects.

Plus, what I typically hear from experts is that there will be a reckoning. I’m told that at some point, these issues will cause so many problems and cost so much money that they’ll finally take a smarter course of action. At the very least, I’m told compliance issues and other regulatory issues will force the problem to a head.

And that’s a little reassuring, frankly, because I’d like to think we’ve learned something from the data debacles of recent years.

But again, White offers a different ending.

“Of course I am aware that business success is not predicted on governed information,” he writes. “Some of the most successful firms today have very poor information governance.”

The whole encounter reminds me of the famous fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone knows it’s not enough to treat data quality as a project. Yet everyone’s going along with it, because, well, it’s the emperor.

But in real life, it seems, things don’t always change even if someone points out that the emperor is wrong.

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