It is OUR data not MY data
Becoming “Data Driven” is the new consulting buzzword, along with Digital Transformation. It fits well with all the new digital technology that has come on the scene recently. But the first step in being “Data Driven” is that data needs to be seen as a corporate asset. If you look at most companies today, that just isn’t the case.
‘MY data world’ leads to ‘Excel hell’
While you will find hard working information management groups in every company, if you look close enough you will find that a lot of data comes from shadow IT software such as Excel, Access or maybe shared drives. But in whatever form it comes, that data is MY data not a corporate information asset.
If your most trusted and authoritative data source is a personal spreadsheet, you are living in a MY data world—a data universe where analysts must go on the hunt to find the best nuggets. Then they must work to clean up, reprocess, reformat and enrich what they find to suit their individual standards, and carefully squirrel away that data in a personal hiding place for reuse.
This process will usually give you a pretty good result, as long as you have an experienced and dedicated analyst. But if the analyst is away, or transferred to a new assignment or heaven help you, retires or quits, your comfortable world just came to an end.
Worse yet, if you have more than one analyst, you have multiple sets of individual best data stores and different results from competing processes. I used to call this “dueling spreadsheet”. But from a data management’s perspective, it is “Excel Hell.”
Data as a corporate asset
To get to a “Data Driven” culture, you have to start considering data as a corporate asset. Then senior leadership has to reinforce this idea. Just have bosses ask their analysts where they got their raw data from, where they put the results when they complete a project, and reward them when the answer is good enterprise information management practice.
You can’t just delegate this responsibility to the IT department. Data has to be a business priority, not a technology challenge.
Someone has to figure out what data is important and set the clear definition of those information objects so that comparison and exchange of data is an efficient process.
Setting the rules
Someone has to set the security rules on what data is confidential and what is not, what data is to be stored and what is to be dumped. Someone has to set the business and technical rules on how to treat the best data. Someone has to agree on what standards are going to be used, whether industry or internally developed ones.
I am not suggesting that every executive or even engineer learn data models or statistical programming languages. Just that they learn enough, care enough, pay attention enough to make sure their organizations get the message that it is OUR data, and that everyone has a responsibility for everyone to benefit.
Certified data managers in a data-driven culture
Create data steward positions, encourage data managers to get certified and reward accordingly. Set up data governance committees and show up to one every so often to see where the problems are. Then help the committee fix them.
Managers usually are screened off from data quality issues by well-intentioned and very hard working MY data analysts. The data shown to the boss is always the best quality and often comes from the results of overtime work and a shadow source.
This is not a sustainable solution. This is not the way to create a “Data Driven” culture. This is not the way to get the most of your data investments. And it certainly is not the way to make sure that critical information is shared and used by all the people that it should touch.
An OUR data world is achievable, but first we have to break some bad MY data habits.
Chevron Fellow Emeritus and Founder of Reflections Data Consulting Jim Crompton retired from Chevron in 2013 after almost 37 years with the major International Oil & Gas Company. After moving from Houston to Colorado Springs, Jim established the Reflections Data Consulting LLC to continue his work in data management and analytics for the Exploration and Production industry.