Kindling the Flames: The Future of Data Governance


I am lucky in that I really enjoy my job.  Working as a data quality & data governance consultant brings me into contact with lots of different people from many companies a


I am lucky in that I really enjoy my job.  Working as a data quality & data governance consultant brings me into contact with lots of different people from many companies and countries, all of whom share my passion for improving data and how it is managed. And one aspect of my role that I particularly look forward to every year is participating in the annual prize giving ceremony organised by Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science & Informatics to celebrate their students’ successes over the past year.

I am involved in this event as I have been teaching a module on Data Governance and Data Quality within the School.  This is aimed at undergraduate students as part of a wider Business & IS Strategy course.  Data Governance is seen as an ideal use case for the need to align business and IT strategies, as it requires business and IT to work together to assign data accountability and deliver improvements.  At the end of my eight hours of lectures and exercises with the students, they get to complete an assignment which gets them to map out a data quality improvement / data governance strategy for a fictional global hotel chain.  The best assignment wins Trillium Software’s annual prize, which I and Fleur Haggerty, our EMEA Marketing manager, had the pleasure to present this year.    Our aim in this module is not to create data quality & governance experts, but at least to make students aware of its importance.  As Socrates wrote, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

What struck me again this year was how readily students with little or no real world work experience get to grips with the fundamental concepts and practices of data quality and data governance.  On reflection, however, it’s not that surprising.  These students are the children of the digital generation.  They access, create and share digital data every day of their lives; their work and social interactions are founded on it.  So they readily appreciate the value of accurate, complete and reliable data to them as individuals and the others they engage with – both corporate and personal.  As such they intuitively grasp the importance of the concepts and practices of data quality & data governance. 

 That’s the good news.  But the bad news is that very few of the digital generation are exposed to data quality and data governance disciplines in their schooling and higher education.  There are a few enlightened institutions, such as Cardiff in the UK and the University of Little Rock Arkansas in the US, that make it part of their curriculum.  But these are the exceptions, so it’s no wonder that data champions often still find it so hard to win over their business and IT colleagues to the data cause.  Until data management in all its forms becomes a staple of education in both business and IT disciplines, it’s always going to be an uphill battle to educate those for whom data management is an alien concept.  When the day comes when it is as much part of the business / IT curriculum as project management & finance it may at last be given the corporate focus and importance we know it deserves. 

Nigel Turner Nigel Turner
VP Information Management Strategy, Trillium Software

Nigel Turner works with Trillium Software clients to start, expand and accelerate their enterprise data quality initiatives. He spent much of his career at British Telecommunications plc (BT) where he led an internal enterprise wide data quality improvement programme. This ten year programme was praised by Gartner, Forrester, Ovum Butler and others both for its approach and proven benefits. Nigel has published several papers on data management and is a regular invited speaker at CRM and Information Management events. He is also a part time lecturer at Cardiff University where he teaches data management.

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