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DataFlux Ideas '10: CEO Tony Fisher identifies the three potholes on the highway to data management success.
Posted Oct 18, 2010
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Has the evolution of the data management space ever reminded you of the early days of the automobile industry? That's how DataFlux Chief Executive Officer Tony Fisher sees it — and, according to the keynote that Fisher delivered at the recent DataFlux Ideas conference, data management is at a critical turning point involving ownership and control.

[Editors' Note: The webcast can be found here.]

"Today, we — as organizations — have completely lost control," Fisher told the audience at DataFlux Ideas, which was held in Palm Springs, Calif. Data, he contended, may have justifiably earned credit for generating some successes, but — as with the obstacles faced by the automobile business before industrialization — organizations have yet to establish processes to make those successes replicable.

"It wasn't until Olds and Ford came along and industrialized a repeatable process for the automobile that we were successful with production," Fisher said. Prior to industrialization and mass production, bespoke automobiles ruled, with each automobile essentially a one-off, varying slightly from the next. Similarly, Fisher argued, organizations have yet to industrialize the data that resides and circulates throughout their organizations.

What we need, Fisher said, is not only to create methodical processes for handling data, but also to let data decouple these applications. Data can, in theory, be the road connecting applications and silos in an organization.

"We haven't concentrated on the content moving from app to app," Fisher told the crowd. "We haven't figured out this 'roadway' thing." Not only do "bespoke applications" reside in most businesses, he warned, but those applications create wedges between enterprise departments.

Fisher then outlined the barriers to adopting data management as a corporate project:

  1. Corporate cultures are based on silos
    "We tend to think, ‘This is my line of business, my application, and my data,' " Fisher said. "We have to get out of this thought process." Rather, he stressed, employees must start viewing data as mission-critical to the organization.
  2. Lack of business sponsorship
    Here's where the "data disconnect" comes in, Fisher stated. On one side are technology staffers, methodical and dedicated to ensuring that applications work together. On the other side are the line-of-business folks, who are very process-driven but also tend to shoot from the hip. The gap between these groups, Fisher said, is the reason we're burdened by bespoke applications. The solution? "Better use of data and decoupling from apps," he told the audience.
  3. Ownership
    Line-of-business personnel often think they own data because it's generated by the operations they conduct. Truth be told, however, data will outlast both applications and employees. "Your data is the one consistent thing you have," Fisher said. "Apps come and go, but data will still be there." Therefore, organizations should look for a data management platform that can span the enterprise — to give the organization ownership of data.

"We have to think about all this stuff at once," Fisher insisted. "I can't continue to survive if I just think of the one-off problems." Another of Fisher's suggestions to avoid the ownership dilemma? Put a strong emphasis on data stewardship. Having a data steward responsible for issuing data-related rules will help establish methodologies that can be applied universally to the organization.

"The way to take back control is to look across all of the organization and the impact of risk mitigation, revenue, and also cost control," Fisher said. Reformulated as a shared goal, data management can bridge the organizational disconnects and enforce collaboration.

In other words, Fisher assured the audience, with proper data management an organization can be shifting from neutral to drive in no time.

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