The Coming Data Doomsday

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    Top Predictions for Big Data in 2014

    Remember last year, when we were all talking about the coming “data tsunami?” Heck, even CNBC wrote about it.

    The data tsunami metaphor has always struck me as odd, particularly after 2011’s very real tsunami devastated parts of Japan. I gathered that it meant big, but it was hard to envision data creating tsunami-level chaos and destruction. I’m starting to rethink that.

    Gartner recently came out with this rather startling statement that 33 percent of Fortune 100 organizations will face an information management crisis within the next three years. Think about that: A third of the top companies in the United Statesthese companies — so poorly manage information, they soon won’t be able to value, govern or even trust their own information.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    It’s frightening, I know, but in the interest of not getting angry emails and calls from Gartner, the press release is very specific about what it means by “crisis” and “manage.”

    “When we say ‘manage,’ we mean ‘manage information for business advantage,’ as opposed to just maintaining data and its physical or virtual storage needs,” Gartner analyst Andrew White states. “In a digital economy, information is becoming the competitive asset to drive business advantage, and it is the critical connection that links the value chain of organizations.”

    Okay, fine. So maybe that’s not exactly how I would define a crisis, but it’s still a very bad sign, no matter how you phrase it.

    Honestly, it’s not hard to see how this happened. In fact, if you have questions, John Parkinson, an affiliate partner at Waterstone Management Group, does a great job of summing up how we got here in the CFO column, “Time to Clean Up Your Master Data.” Basically, the business lived with data problems because it had to. When technology and practices like master data management came along, many organizations put it off as too hard or too expensive.

    “Some day, but not today,” became the data management mantra of the day. That’s worked for years, because data wasn’t really business critical. That has changed, experts like White and Parkinson say, and our day of reckoning is coming.

    “Cleaning up master data will never be cheap or easy, but it’s becoming a necessity — and waiting isn’t likely to make the problem smaller,” Parkinson warns. “Spreadsheets are great tools for many things, but it’s time to retire them in favor of integrated systems that can access complete, accurate and up-to-date master data that’s consistent and trustworthy.”

    MDM is only one component to an overall enterprise information management strategy. Gartner advocates for a much broader approach based on three deceptively short steps:

    “We recommend that IT leaders identify the crucial business outcomes that need improvement or that are being held by poor information management. Second, they need to determine the business processes and leaders most impacted by those outcomes, and use their findings to start setting priorities for a new EIM program. Finally, they need to adopt a program management approach for EIM, to identify work efforts, resource commitments, stakeholder expectations and metrics for success.”

    See? That’s only three easy (but incredibly complex) steps to fix 50 years of poor data management practices. You’ll need to get on that, preferably before that tsunami of Big Data hits. No big deal, right.


    Be sure to check back for my next and completely unrelated post: How to convert all your financial assets to food stores and gold.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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