Data Governance, The War on Drugs, and Little Blue Pills

December 2, 2008
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A few days ago Reese wrote a blog about a piece he’d read that got him fired up. The writer compared Data Governance to fighting “The War on Drugs” and seemed to have a poor opinion of those who served in Data Governance roles – as if their goal was to keep data users from “getting a fix.”

 I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Surely the guy didn’t mean it – I’ve never seen a program where the goal was to keep users from getting the information t

A few days ago Reese wrote a blog about a piece he’d read that got him fired up. The writer compared Data Governance to fighting “The War on Drugs” and seemed to have a poor opinion of those who served in Data Governance roles – as if their goal was to keep data users from “getting a fix.”

 I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Surely the guy didn’t mean it – I’ve never seen a program where the goal was to keep users from getting the information they needed. Rather, it was about the responsible use of information – making sure that info presented to the world as complete, accurate, and fit for use actually was.

And don’t get me started on “The War on Drugs” – just don’t. 

But I will say that if I were to use a drug metaphor to discuss Data Governance, it would be more about the controls that you’d expect to be in place in a hospital, where the movement of a pill from the pharmacy to the patient follows a controlled path. The mission is to get every patient every drug they need, with the assurances that no one gets hurt along the way.

 After all, what would you think of a hospital that dumped all its drugs in a pile in the lobby and announced “Come and get it!” on the loudspeaker? (Actually, that would make a funny scene in a movie, wouldn’t it?)

 But in real life, we have horrible lessons to learn from recent events where babies died because the wrong strength blood thinner was administered to them. The drugs were lawfully administered, but what was in the vials wasn’t what medical staff thought it was. Terrible harm came from this.

 Well, terrible harm can also come from using information that means something other than what you think it does. Should you be prohibited from accessing it? Possibly, possibly not. Should there be controls so that you (and the people you’re feeding it to) can trust what’s in it? Absolutely! Is it ok to give you a key to the cabinet with the caveat to “use at your own risk?” Maybe – that is absolutely situational.

The real discussion here is how we serve the needs of patients when there is no pharmacy building (or no data mart, or not the data you need in the mart as it exists now). Do you let the patient die? I don’t think so. Do you turn them away, to find what they need in the dark alleys of ODBC territory? Risky business, that approach. Or do you set up a booth in the corner of the waiting room, where folks who understand medicine can hook up users with what they need, while keeping them from killing themselves.

Again, if this were a movie, that would be a funny scene. ”Doc, Doc, I need to mainline some customer data! Give me a hit, stat!” The only question I have is… what kind of data would be those little magic blue pills? 

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