woensdag 15 december 2010

Data is an asset of IT?

I’ve read an interesting article on Information Management about Data is an asset.  In this article Jim Ericson states that data is an asset and there is more than just an intrinsic value of data. It can be made explicit. Jim talks about taking the net value of the projects that uses the data and this is the gain you can get of using data.  In my opinion, these thoughts are very IT driven.
In Erik’s assumption he talks about projects done by IT and summarizing the net values of these projects and there you are, you have the value of data. Is this really the case? What about business opportunities what  data can achieve? What if a report is badly designed in case of usability or gives a poor insight?  What if a BI developer created an awesome analytical insight what assists the business in a very helpful manner? This kind of advantages is very implicit. You can’t calculate adding up the net values of projects!

Off course, I've been in the situation when a business user said to me : “Just give me the data and I'll build something in Excel” and yes, I think that there should be ways to enable this. I’ve seen some great work with excel worksheets in one of my former projects. Those were people who know what data means and how to handle this. There's another side to the matter (and that’s when IT should be in sight) that sometimes these solutions were developed over and over again (with some adjustments) for different departments. When standardization, skills or scalability is needed, IT comes into play. These excel implementations can be used for prototyping, but in the end you need to standardize the general parts.

This discussion reminds me of another discussion about power users, casual users and Managed Self service BI. Power users, like business analysts, wants data to explore regarding correlations, insights and opportunities. For casual users standard reports are quite enough to do their job.  So give the power users freedom to develop great visualizations but don’t let them free in doing their excel/access habit. Look over their shoulder and standardize the general parts.

Another thing that is involved here is the ‘one single version of the truth’ principle. Bringing all of the disparate data into a data warehouse, has created the IT backlog in last decade. This generated the Self Service BI movement. Making IT responsible for delivering all of the information would create an IT backlog.

So should data/information be an asset or should data/information be an asset of IT  (from data to information to knowledge to wisdom)? It has some nuances. IT (!) depends - On:
  • Maturity of the IT department.
  • On the BI/DWH knowledge of the IT department.
  • Depends on the strategy of the organisation (and maturity). Do you want to enhance a smarter organisation? What responsibilities should IT have and what should be the responsebility of  the business user (power and casual).
  • Kind of data.
  • Depends on the ease of understanding of data structure.
  • Depends on the data quality. If the data quality is poor, you need some specialized personnel to clean up the mess.
  • Data governance. Can you trust your data?
  • Master Data Management (sort of a quality check of data).
  • Security. Do you want to show all the data to your employees.
So there is no silver bullet for this. There are too much interdependencies between all these subjects. My advice in these cases would be: write a BI strategy document and take all these subjects into account. Define a far sight and create a road map to get there.


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