Who's Managing Data Stores? It's Not Always IT

Loraine Lawson
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Ten ways that companies can use integration and integration-related strategies to build business.

When I talk about databases, I assume they're managed by IT. I'm not the only one-it seems to be widely assumed that databases fall under IT's jurisdiction.


You know the old saying: "When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me"? Well, a recent survey about who owns and manages data warehouses suggests that may be the case with this common assumption about databases and data warehouses.


Dynamic Markets surveyed 601 IT, sales and marketing professionals in the UK, France and Germany about how they manage multiple enterprise databases. The survey was commissioned by Informatica, and uncovered some surprising-and alarming-practices, including:


  • 32 percent allow access and modification rights to all employees.
  • 94 percent of sales and marketing professionals work in departments that own at least one database, which they manage and maintain within that department-but the average among all respondents is nine separate databases per company.
  • 80 percent of the sales and marketing departments say they purchased software without going through IT or the procurement department.
  • 38 percent, or nearly four in 10, of director-level respondents said circumventing the "proper channels" is okay according to director-level staff-and 34 percent of respondents said it cuts down on internal bureaucracy.


It's obvious from reading the remarks in the Network World article that the results surprised Mark Seager, vice president technology EMEA, at Informatica. Seager said the results posed a troubling question: "... if the IT department isn't in control of this data, who exactly is?"


Good question.


Now, it may be tempting to look at this survey and point out that these companies were in Europe, and surely it's different in the U.S. It'd be great to see the survey repeated here. Maybe it is just a European problem. But then again, maybe not-particularly when you consider some of the problems plaguing data warehouses identified in a recent informal poll by Jim Harris, an independent consultant and blogger on data issues, including data warehousing.


Harris asked readers whether they had a data warehouse, which provided trusted, high-quality data, or whether they had a data outhouse or an untrusted source of poor quality data. Only 26 readers voted, but a strong majority-17-confessed to having a data outhouse.


Certainly, in the U.S., spreadsheet silos are a long-recognized problem. And the anecdotal reports Harris received reflect a certain level of mistrust and frustration about data warehouses that might encourage this sort of under-the-radar, database creep. Dylan Jones, editor of Data Quality Pro, said very few of the data warehouses he's seen live up to the dream, for several reasons-including that IT makes the procedures too inflexible for business users:

On one site I noticed that whenever the business wanted to add a new dimension or category it would take a 2-3 week turnaround to sign off. For a financial services company this was a killer because they had simply been used to dragging another column into their Excel spreadsheets, instantly getting the data they needed. Sure a warehouse may be able to show your data going back 15 years and cross validates results with surrogate sources to confirm accuracy, but if the business can't get it in a format they need, then it's all irrelevant.

So, obviously, IT isn't steering this whole database/data warehouse boat as much as many assumed. But can the process be made collaborative and to the benefit of all parties? Tomorrow, I'll share two resources for making data more business-friendly.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 24, 2010 1:18 PM Phil Bailey Phil Bailey  says:

You're right to pose the question Loraine. Many people are beginning to understand that data should never be 'owned' by IT, but businesses just don't seem to put the required roles in place in their organisations to be able to do a better job.

Also, data has traditionally been very heavily linked to IT infrastructure capacity requirements, but I think that is gradually changing with the more powerful desktop super computers (i.e. Kickfire and columnar DBs) and also the many cloud/SaaS offerings available, providing more options than ever for business people to manage their own data stores in a better way than using the traditional spreadmarts.

I think things are changing for the better; as most business users need far better levels of agility than most IT departments can dream of offering, from what I've seen in the last 15 years of doing BI.


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