Jill Dyche's recent post contains one of the most depressing statements about what won't change in 2011-what she termed an "anti-prediction"-that I've seen:
The business side won't be interested in helping to define new rules of engagement with IT. They'll simply wait for IT to tell them how to engage. And then they'll refuse to play.
It's depressing because we all know it's true, at least in most organizations.
I thought of her anti-prediction while reading Rob Karel's recent post about the necessity of coupling data governance with master data management. Karel, who specializes in MDM at Forrester, warns that all MDM practitioners and data quality/governance evangelists must take up this call to arms:
Data governance is not-and should never have been-about the data. High-quality and trustworthy data sitting in some repository somewhere does not in fact increase revenue, reduce risk, improve operational efficiencies, or strategically differentiate any organization from its competitors. It's only when this trusted data can be delivered and consumed within the most critical business processes and decisions that run your business that these business outcomes can become reality. So what is data governance all about? It's all about business process, of course.
And therein lies the rub: You'll need business engagement to drive it across the organization, to create what Forrester terms "process data management."
Dyche's words about the business refusing to play echoed back to me, along with her anti-prediction about data governance in particular:
Even if they are presented with proof of value, management will be reluctant to invest in data governance. Why? Because managers aren't rewarded on economies-of-scale, they're rewarded on revenue realization. So all the duplicate work, re-work, and skunkworks efforts don't count. What counts is how data governance will help generate revenue, which is a much more difficult pitch, and they won't invest in that either. (Ditto for data quality and MDM.)
No wonder Gartner is predicting that for the next four years, 66 percent of organizations that start an MDM program will struggle to demonstrate its business value.
A professor I knew said everybody can be divided into two groups: Lear people and Hamlet people.
Is IT doomed to play King Lear, embracing too quickly the words of vendors then railing "madness" against an unsympathetic storm as the business turns against it? And must the business always play Hamlet, bemoaning the state of affairs, but unwilling to take any decisive action?
Not necessarily. It turns out, Dyche actually highlighted a way out of this cycle back in 2008, when she wrote about Dell's successful MDM initiative where IT led the way.
Now, IT leading the way can be a disaster for any project and it is generally advised against it when it comes to MDM. In fact, John Radcliffe, research vice president at Gartner, recently warned against this approach, saying it can be hard to obtain business buy-in, which can thwart your efforts to prove MDM's value. He's quoted as saying:
It's not just an IT project. The business needs to take responsibility and be accountable for master data governance and stewardship. Unless organizations take a holistic, business-driven approach to MDM, addressing governance and metrics requirements in particular, they risk having their MDM programs fail.
So why did this approach work for Dell? Possibly it's because Dell is a tech company, and it's always a little different. But Dyche notes IT also aggressively engaged the business during the process:
The lesson here is that IT needs to emerge from the shadows and claim the conversation. In waiting for the business to define the rules of engagement, important conversations are never had, important relationships are never made, and-not to put too fine a point on it-important business applications don't get built. What Dell did was to simply ask the right people the right questions by leveraging the culture and the vocabulary of the business. Your company needs to start these conversations. And most likely, IT needs to be first to the table.
Mind you, IT wasn't acting unilaterally in this instance. Instead, IT started the discussion, even lobbied for this change. IT led, yes, but by involving the business, not dictating to it.
IT leading what should be a business initiative may not be the perfect approach; it certainly flies in the face of many expert recommendations. Yes, it could very well be a mistake that leads to problems down the road. But sometimes, you've got to make mistakes if you want to move forward.
And IT taking the lead does have one, distinct advantage: It's the path most likely to actually lead to action, and therefore, it may be the best chance we have at creating much-needed change in how organizations handle, govern and manage data.