The Information Governance Conundrum
While "rigorous discovery" and defensible disposal of information is the most powerful outcome of information governance efforts, very few are able to effectively dispose of data.
ComputerWorld UK recently examined the full implications of the self-serve IT trend, asking whether users are really up to the challenge. The writer noted that while we're dealing with a new generation raised on iPods and the Internet, we're also dealing with a generation at the bottom of a 20-year decline in science, math, technology and engineering skills.
If you include statistical analysis in that skill set, it potentially sets the stage for a perfect storm in self-service IT, where overconfident but underskilled end users run amok in business systems, draw bad conclusions from randomly mashed-up data or corrupt IT's once-pristine data stores.
It's an excellent point, really, and the article offers five tips for successful self-serve IT. Topping the list is "Retain tight control over corporate data." But to me, that gives short shift to the real issue, which isn't so much control of data but data governance. The days of IT retaining obsolete control over data are gone - assuming they ever really existed (ahem, Excel spreadsheets!).
It strikes me that, in a self-serve IT environment, data governance takes on a heightened level of importance and urgency.
Jill Dyche recently wrote that the very term "data governance" conjures up a world of excitement that's quite different than the reality:
They imagine themselves part of an omnipotent committee of decision makers that convenes monthly in the executive boardroom. The CEO and his staff are convivial and earnest, the lemonade flows, and plates of brownies crowd the credenza. The CEO gives an impassioned speech about how data is strategic. Data is an asset!' the attendees cry while enthusiastically jotting down their action items.
Of course, the reality is very different - and often much more depressing. But a successful data governance program falls somewhere between the two, she writes.
And, it should be said, a successful data governance program is not without its own rewards, particularly if you consider the potential ramifications of self-serve IT.
For instance, an Aberdeen study found that those with "higher levels of data governance and ERP integration" with MDM outperformed their peers in improvements such as inventory accuracy, complete and on-time deliveries, and reducing operational and administrative costs.
Data governance - or information governance, if you prefer (and I do) - is "really about achieving trust in data you're using across the organization," writes Shane Schick in a recent IT World Canada article, "Why IT Needs to Own Information Governance." The title is a misnomer, since the article doesn't actually address ownership so much as the underlying need for any type of information governance program.
Self-serve IT is an inevitable trend - one we've been evolving toward since the first PC, as Forrester Analyst Boris Evelson points out. But it will be pointless if the data is unreliable or useless. Data governance, and the data quality issues a governance program addresses, will be key to ensuring these self-serve systems are built on a firm foundation, and not on a foundation of sand.