Data Governance as 'Star Wars' Makes Clear the Main Challenges

Loraine Lawson

This week's must-read data content - after this blog, of course - is hands-down, a mock debate between the Galactic Empire, contending data governance must be a top-down edict, and the Rebel Alliance, calling for data governance as a bottom-up collaboration.


And I'm not just saying that because "Star Wars" adds geek cred. Sometimes, those gimmicks fall flat. No, this two-column debate is a great read for both IT and business leaders because the allegory works, breaking down complex discussion about the difficulties and pitfalls of data governance, no matter how you go about it.


The debate is actually a two-column collaboration by the creative editor of the Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality blog, Jim Harris, representing the Rebellion, and the philosophical Forrester Research analyst Rob Karel as the bureaucratic voice of the Empire.


Of course, both these guys know data governance is a complex topic, hence the caveat - for the overly literal reader - that

... this is meant to be a true debate format where Rob and I are intentionally arguing polar opposite positions with full knowledge that the reality is data governance success requires effectively balancing bureaucracy and agility.

I won't short-change you by providing a play-by-play of their debate. It's much too fun for that.


Instead, here are my two favorite quotes:

We here at the home office recognize that data governance in and of itself is a cost center-an expensive one at that. So why do it? Because there exists a variety of burning Death Star (aka "burning platform") issues that executive management must tackle to ensure we succeed in our corporate vision: Galactic domination, destruction of the Jedi Order, and successful entry as a viable No. 2 competitor to Apple in consumer electronics. Failure is not an option!" -- Rob "Darth" Karel
Bureaucracy, command, control-the Dark Side of Data Governance are they. --Jim "OCDQ-Wan"


I will add, however, that Karel's Empire position is getting the tar beat out of it in a poll on the debate, which may be a bit unfair to his argument. After all, it's hard to garner support when you're defending a villain, much less an uber villain like the Dark Side.


But let's face it: Many organizations will feel they have no choice but to approach governance as a directive, and with some justification. Some predictions say less than 10 percent of organizations will succeed in their first attempts at data governance, and a DataFlux/CBR Online study published this year found the number three issue holding up data governance is individual business units won't buy into it.


Then again, complexity and lack of support from senior management were the leading two barriers to adoption, so Harris has that going for him.


I won't tell you who I voted for, although if you've seen my recent post calling for less complexity in governance, you can probably guess.


Oh, if you prefer, they also debated the issue on OCDQ Radio.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 10, 2011 1:25 AM Rob Karel Rob Karel  says:

Thanks for joining the discussion Loraine - and more importantly thanks for recognizing my behind-the-8-ball polling position!

If I read these blogs as an outside observer, the optimist in me would probably also want to vote for the Rebellion since data governance agility would be such a wonderful nirvana to achieve.  I'm just wondering how many voters and readers believe it's possible within their organizational cultures. 

If Jim and I offered a third option in the poll of "balanced mix of bureaucracy and agility", I'm guessing most would have chosen that - which is why we didn't include it of course.

Jun 10, 2011 11:04 AM Jim Harris Jim Harris  says:

Thanks Loraine!

Yes, I definitely agree that Rob Karel had the much greater debate challenge since he had to write in support of the Empire of Bureaucracy.

Therefore, I invite your readers to cast a vote for Darth Karel in the poll:

May the Force be with us all.

Jedi Regards,

Jim "OCDQ-Wan" Harris


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