October 11th, 2010 by Jim Harris, Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, and an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer

By Jim Harris, the Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, and an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer.

Last week I attended the DataFlux IDEAS 2010 conference, which was held October 4-6 in Palm Springs, California.  The conference provided direct interaction with experts, industry thought leaders, and other data management professionals.  General and breakout sessions included training classes, customer case studies and success stories, as well as best practices workshops and panel discussions.

Although this was obviously a vendor’s user conference, many of the sessions provided vendor-neutral insight into how the data management landscape is changing, especially the opening address by Tony Fisher, the President and CEO of DataFlux, as well as the keynote address by industry thought-leader Jill Dyché of Baseline Consulting.

One of the key points made by Fisher was the need to decouple our data from our applications in order to evolve data management into providing data as a service (DaaS) to the entire enterprise.  This will enable organizations to close the gap, which Fisher referred to as the “Data Disconnect,” between IT-driven infrastructure and business-driven processes.

In his recent blog post Socializing Software, Michael Fauscette explains that in order “to create a next generation enterprise, businesses need to take two concepts from the social web and apply them across all business functions: community and content.  Traditional enterprise software was built on the concept of managing through rigid business processes and controlled workflow.  With process at the center of the design, people-based collaboration was not possible.”  Fauscette goes on to explain how “the underlying architecture should be built on open standards and use current SOA technology to enable integration and broader system compatibility.”

In her recent blog post The High Costs of Unused Apps, Lack of Data Governance, Loraine Lawson cited research revealing that many applications, although no longer being used, are still being maintained because of the data stored within them.  “Does anyone doubt,” asked Lawson, that “this lack of data governance will cause problems down the road?”  By decoupling that data, the unused applications can finally be sunset, saving money on maintenance costs and alleviating some of the stress on overburdened IT staff.

DaaS can help organizations overcome the bane of successful enterprise data management—data silos.  “Siloed organizations beget siloed data,” explained Dyché.  Many organizations persist on their reliance on vertical data silos, where each business unit acts as the custodian of their own private data—thereby maintaining their own version of the truth.  DaaS can horizontally span these vertical business boundaries and allow the enterprise to truly manage data as a corporate asset.

In her IDEAS customer success story, Michele Koch of Sallie Mae defined data governance as “solving boundary-spanning issues by pulling together pieces of the data puzzle.”  Of course, ensuring data quality is one of the most important pieces of the data puzzle.  In his IDEAS customer success story, John Zacharakis of Actelion Pharmaceuticals explained that “DQ = DQ.  Data Quality = Decision Quality.”

“The success of your organization,” according to Fisher, “is highly dependent on the quality of your data.  Data can be the difference between success and failure.  Better data leads to better decisions, which ultimately leads to better business.”

This is why it is so strange, as Dyché pointed out, that “most organizations standardize business and technical processes, but not data.”  One of the points made in her keynote address was that as data travels across the enterprise, it must adapt to different business needs.  Therefore, it is essential that data start its journey with a high degree of data quality, which will provide an objective data foundation at the beginning of what Dyché referred to as the enterprise data supply chain.

The strategic importance of collaboration was emphasized throughout nearly every IDEAS session.  “Collaboration is about more than just the Business and IT,” explained Fisher.  “True enterprise-wide collaboration is about all business units collaborating with each other.”

As Patrick Egan of Pioneer Investments concluded his IDEAS customer success story:

“If you want grow incrementally, then be competitive.  If you want to grow exponentially, then be collaborative.”

All successful organizations use that idea not only as a guiding principle, but more importantly, as a call to action in their daily practices.

Really good summary of some of the key points of the conference, Jim.

Comment by Phil Simon — October 12, 2010 @ 10:50 am

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