Stop Believing in Magic, and Start Believing in Data Governance

In my first blog post, I cautioned to not immediately jump into BIG DATA.  That’s a good first mistake to avoid, but how can you expect to get business intelligence (BI) going when there is so much you don’t know and all of these  powerful tools seem to be powered by magic?  Where should you really begin?

Like most ambitious endeavors, successful BI should start with a carefully crafted plan.  You and your business must find a way to communicate with your BI development team so they know what you want.  The tricky part is that neither of you natively speak one another’s language.  But before you run out and look for the Rosetta stone on Business to Technology Language Translation for Purposes of Better BI STOP!  There is a better way!

From here on out I’ll call it data governance, though it is often referred to as information governance.  Data governance comprises a few disciplines that we’ll discuss in future articles, but the key principle is driving a business to actively manage its data assets in ways that facilitate clarity and information delivery.
Data governance acts as a translator so that technologists can understand the business’ needs and vice-versa.  It effectively requires business entities to solve the questions that would otherwise derail your BI development efforts these are questions that only the business entities can even hope to solve.

For example, consider one of the most basic elements of most businesses the concept of a customer.

  • How does your business define who and what a customer is?
  • Would everybody write down the same thing?
  • Does everybody know the exact moment a prospect becomes a customer?
  • If not, how reliable are those sales reports that somebody produced?

Chances are, without a formal data governance program, your business cannot consistently and correctly answer these simple questions about one of the simplest foundational elements of your business.  What will happen with the really tricky stuff?

And we wonder why business intelligence projects traditionally have challenges completing successfully on time and on budget?  Presuming you are a business person, and the questions above are probably tricky to answer for you how will a technology-centric BI developer fare while trying to answer those same questions on the fly in the middle of a complicated programming task?  It’s amazing any BI projects succeed in those conditions!

Establishing data governance is about no longer blindly hoping your BI Team can just figure it out, and realizing that it is up to your business to solve your business’ data challenges!  Great business intelligence does not just happen by luck or magic.  It happens through a disciplined approach using processes that are far more business-centric than technology-centric.

In fact, the technology-specific efforts of a successful BI implementation make up only a small part of the overall effort.  Data governance is an oft-overlooked crucial piece of the overall strategy.  Data governance helps your organization identify where the real truths of your business can be found and the then the rest of BI will mine them, mold them, and deliver these truths to the right people!

Building your BI on top of anything less than a solid foundation will spell trouble down the road!

I see countless fancy demos of flashy technologies, but they all make the assumption that they will be fed quality data and that first step is where many organizations need help.  My focus in this series is on helping leaders understand the need for business-side transformations to ultimately realize the potential their data holds.

Keep reading, and soon we’ll have your BI moving in the right direction!

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