Nigel Turner: “It’s all about the data. Or Is it?”

May 17, 2012
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Nigel Turner By Nigel Turner, Vice President, Information Management Strategy, Harte-Hanks Trillium Software

I, along with several Trillium Software colleagues and around 250 other delegates from across the globe, attended Europe’s largest annual data governance & MDM Conference recently. 

Nigel Turner By Nigel Turner, Vice President, Information Management Strategy, Harte-Hanks Trillium Software

I, along with several Trillium Software colleagues and around 250 other delegates from across the globe, attended Europe’s largest annual data governance & MDM Conference recently. 

During the three day event I had the pleasure of running a tutorial on how to make the case for investment in enterprise-wide data governance and MDM programmes.  In this full day interactive session, truly multinational teams assembled & presented three alternative business cases to the CxOs of a fictional but all too realistic hotel chain whose data was about as good as the chances of Botswana topping the 2012 London Olympics medal table. 

Great fun was had by all, and by the way all the cases received the investment they sought, albeit paid in Monopoly bank notes. Next year, if Europe’s economy continues to decline at its current rate, I may be able to hand out Euros.  

The overall event contained its expected miscellany of expert deliberations, customer case studies and vendor presentations. Many sessions focused on how data can be improved through:
•    Better data problem identification & quantification
•    Data remediation & monitoring
•    Creating and operating business processes and behaviours that enhance & preserve, and not diminish & damage, data
•    Using best of breed tools to cleanse, integrate, enrich & maintain data and support all the above activities.

However, an underlying theme frequently emerged. It’s not just all about the data after all. Time and time again several presenters and attendees bemoaned the lack of business awareness, involvement and investment in their data management improvement efforts. Many still seem to operate in darkened silos, banging their heads against intractable walls of indifference or downright sceptical hostility from the very people who should be championing their cause. 

Yet, conversely, it was clear in the event that more organisations are increasingly embracing the latest trends of Cloud Computing and Big Data.  The new data challenges these throw up will create an even greater need for effective control & management of data assets, so we are faced with, as Winston Churchill once observed about Russia, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” 

But Churchill also added, “Perhaps there is a key…” So what is the key to unlock this paradox for us as data management professionals?

It was clear that those who were involved with the most successful data governance & MDM projects highlighted at the event had a number of things in common:

First, they seemed to have a strong awareness of the business drivers which impel their organisations forward. As a result they could directly relate their efforts to those goals and prove their value. They also had a better handle on the business problems they are trying to help solve.

Second, they explained their successes and aspirations in plain language that a non-expert could make sense of. With some speakers, in contrast, I observed a direct correlation between the complexity of the slides and language used with apparent lack of business buy in. No coincidence I contend.  

Last, the winners presented their stories with enthusiasm and passion, celebrating their successes and learning from their mistakes. Passion is infectious, rubs off on others, and wins friends. It also helps people to get where they want to go.

Overall, this was a successful data management event. It again proved that data management is not just about the data, important though that is. It’s also very much about the people who seek to improve the data.