In the era of digital business, how should enterprises adapt their infrastructure to support decentralized and distributed environments? What are the best practices for ensuring data governance? And what is the role of the Chief Data Officer in ensuring all this?
Ted Friedman, VP Distinguished Analyst, Gartner says organizations have to take a totally different view on how they deploy information management technology capabilities. Here are excerpts from the interview.
— Brian Pereira
TED: These days most enterprises want to sell their data, but unless they have good practices for data governance – ensuring data quality, privacy, policies are in place – they won’t be able to command a reasonable price for it in the market. The era of digital business and big data makes governance of data much more important.
Q. Enterprises are moving from a centralized IT architecture to a decentralized one. But in doing so, there is a challenge of keeping the data consistent. So how can organizations manage that?
TED: This is a big conflict – self-service is pulling this way and governance is pulling the other way. I think it is really hard for organizations to strike the right balance.
What we think can be effective is that, along with that self-service, I embed roles like the data steward role, in the business, alongside those citizen analysts and citizen developer roles. This puts the business for governing the data out in the business as well. The technology can help in striking the right balance.
We would like to see more tooling that enables a central team to curate and make available trusted sets of data – which the masses of citizen analysts can operate on.
So you get a bit of a balance. For the most critical data it is well curated and understood to be trusted by the enterprise, and everybody uses that; we don’t care about the things that float around it because they are unique to what an individual is doing. There are some tactics for how you segment the data landscape and have certain things for higher levels of governance to get that (data) consistency.
Q. What is the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) in the governance of data?
TED: We say that, at the highest levels, the CDO role is about three things: making sure an organization has an information strategy; making sure the organization is executing on the information strategy; and making sure the organization is maximizing business value from the information assets.
The governance issue that I mentioned earlier falls under the purview of the CDO. When the CDOs start in their roles, the first thing they do is work on information governance framework. This involves framing governance policies, setting up data steward roles in the business, measuring things like quality of data, and then building process for taking action when the data does not align with the policy.
It is the CEO’s job to work with business stakeholders to decide the level of governance required for different data assets.
Q. What is the CIO’s role in all this and doesn’t it conflict with what the CEO is doing here?
TED: We are seeing more conflict between the CIO and CEO roles. The problem is that a lot of CIOs have let themselves drift in the position of just managing the technology infrastructure and not being strategic. We think a lot of CIOs now will try to reinvent themselves as CEO.
In the digital business the CIO’s role becomes more relevant. When I think about concepts like the Internet of Things, I think about how the world is getting distributed on a massive scale. Data is getting distributed further and wider and it is just not on back office systems. It is on a device, probably on somebody’s clothing. There’s massive distribution of data and massive distribution of the computation on data. We do analytics all the way down at the device level, for example.
I think the CIO’s job is going to be very important in managing that distributed landscape of the technology and the process for the data. In digital business, information technology comes inside products.
So the CIO role becomes more strategic again, because now it has direct business value of revenue generation opportunity.
Some CIOs will become much more relevant in digital business but others will become marginalized as they will just deploy infrastructure from the cloud.
Q. As we move to a more distributed and decentralized environment in digital business, how should organizations re-engineer business processes and re-architect the whole infrastructure piece for the era of digital business?
TED: To adapt the infrastructure for the era of digital business, we think organizations have to take a totally different view, on how they deploy information management technology capabilities.
We built a model called the Gartner Information Capabilities Framework, and it describes our vision for how the modern information infrastructure needs to behave to support the needs of digital business.
Every information use case has to do these six things: you have to describe the information assets; organize them in a way that they can be understood and found; you have to integrate them; be able to share them with consumers; you have to govern them well; and the sixth one is how you build and manage the other five.
The main point is, rather than deploying information management capabilities on a project by project or application by application basis, you have one set of information management capabilities that can be used and reused across any and all manner of use cases.
That’s core principle that we think is critical in digital business, because of the pace, the numerous and diverse use cases that will be there.
We give guidance to Gartner clients that they need to start modernising their technology landscape for managing data and looking for opportunities to move to this idea of common capabilities where, instead of having five applications, each integrating data in their own way, I have one service that integrates data that can be leveraged by all five of these. You could relate it to the concept of service-oriented architecture.
Essentially, it is a set of services to do the building blocks of managing information, and they are deployed in a way that is independent of use case or application or data type. Therefore they can be used across everything.
You see this back plane of metadata. To us in the world of digital business it is possible that the understanding of what the data means and where it is, and the quality of it, is more important than the physical data itself. So we emphasize a lot on the importance of managing metadata.