Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Rise of the Business-focused Data Steward

In a December 2007 research note from Gartner entitled “Best Practices for Data Stewardship”, Gartner give some very practical and accurate advice on starting and executing a data steward program. They reiterate this advice in a press release issued this month. The new advice is to have business people become your data stewards. So, in marketing you have someone assigned as a data steward to work with the IT. The business person knows the meaning of the data as well as where they want to go with it. They become responsible for the data, and owners of it.

It’s a great concept, and one that I expect will become more and more a reality this year. However, there is some growth that needs to happen in the software industry. There are very few tools that serve a business-focused data steward. Most tools on the market are additional features that have been tacked on to IT-focused tools. Sure, a data profiler can show some cool charts and graphs, but not many business users want to learn how to use them. Should a business user really have to learn about metadata, entities, and attributes in order to find out if the data meets the need of the organization?

Rather, a marketing person wants to know if (s)he can do an offer mailing without getting most of it back. A CIO wants to know if a customer database that they just got as part of a merger has complete and current information. Accounting wants to know that they have valid tax ID numbers (social security numbers) for customers with whom they give credit, and the compliance team want to know that they are stopping those listed on the OFAC from opening accounts. Metadata? They don’t care. They just need the metrics to track the business problem.

This was really the concept that Trillium Software had when we designed TS Insight, our data quality reporting tool. The tool uses business rules and analysis from our profiler and presents them in a very friendly way – via a web browser. The more technical users can set up regular updates that display compliance with the business rules. The less technical users can open their web browsers to their customized page and metrics that are important to them. The business rules can track pretty much anything about the data without being too technical.

TS Insight is still in ramp-up for us. We came out with version 1.0 last year and we’re about to release version 2.5 this quarter. Still, we have a big head start on anyone else in the industry with this tool, serving the needs of the business-focused data steward. If this is something you’d like to see, please send me an e-mail and I’ll set up a demo.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and don't necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer. The material written here is copyright (c) 2010 by Steve Sarsfield. To request permission to reuse, please e-mail me.