Thursday, June 25, 2009

Evil Dictators: You Can’t Rule the World without Data Governance

Buried in the lyrics of one of my favorite heavy metal songs are these beautiful words:

Now, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder? – System of the Down, Toxicity

System of the Down’s screamingly poetic lyrics reminds us of a very important lesson that we can take into the business. After all, it is the goal of many companies to “own their world”. If you’re Coke, you want to dominate over Pepsi. If you’re MacDonald’s, you want to crush Burger King. Yet to own competitive markets, you have to run your business with the utmost efficiency. Without data governance, or at least enterprise data quality initiatives, you won’t have that efficiency.

Your quest for world domination will be in jeopardy in many ways without data governance. If your evil world domination plan is to buy up companies, poor data quality and lack of continuity will prevent you from creating a unified environment after the merge. On the day of a merger, you may be asked to produce, one list of products, one list of customers, one list of employees, and one accurate financial report. Where is that data going to come from if it is not clean all over your company? How will the data get clean without data governance?

Data governance brings order to the business units. With order comes the ability to own the information of your business. The ownership brings the ability to make effective and timely decisions. In large companies, whose business units may be warring against each other for sales and control of the information, it’s impossible to own the chaos. It’s difficult to make good decisions and bring order to your people. If you want to own your market, you must have order.

Those companies succeeding in this data-centric world are treating their data assets just as they would treat cold, hard cash. With data governance, companies strive to protect their vast ecosystem of data like it is a monetary system. It can't be the data center's problem alone; it has to be everyone's responsibility throughout the entire company.

Data governance is the choice of CEOs and benevolent dictators, too. The choice about data governance is one about hearing the voices of your people. It's only when you harmonize the voices of technologists, executives and business teams that allow you produce a beautiful song; one that can bring your company teamwork, strategic direction and profit. When you choose data governance, you choose order, communication and hope for your world.

So megalomaniacs, benevolent dictators and CEOs pay heed. You can’t own the world without data governance.

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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.