Data Governance isn’t a new word for the same old stuff. If your organization isn’t achieving sustainable results from your data and information management projects, Data Governance can help. But you’ll need to do more than just adopt a new name. You’ll need to do something far harder – you will need to change how you work and how your IT systems work.
This isn’t easy. Best practices, Maturity Models, and Starter’s guides can help. But at the end of the day if you don’t change, everything stays the same and the results are desultory and predictable.
I meet a lot of people who ask me about the Data Governance products or roadmaps organizations should buy. The best products you can buy are the ones that tell you what you don’t already know. To govern effectively, you need to know what’s going on in the context to when it is happening, what it means, and how it relates to other things. Governance without awareness is a dictatorship of ignorance – people make decisions in their comfort zones because they don’t know any better and don’t know that they don’t know any better either.
OK, nice words Adler but what does that really look like? It looks like Android.
Last week I switched from an iPhone 3GS to a Samsung Galaxy S. Lots of reasons behind the switch, a primary motivator for me is that Android is based on Linux, which in turn is based on the collective contributions of a global community coordinating their ideas for the common good. I like that, and I like Android because as a mobile operating system it integrates lots of disparate applications to provide me with useful information when I need to know it.
Example: Boingo. Boingo is a wifi service that works in some 80,000 airports, hotels, and other hotspots around the world. You pay a monthly service to Boingo to connect for “free” in these hotspots. Very hand for a global traveler. On the Iphone, you have an app but you have to first connect with the iPhone to a local hotspot and then see if Boingo works there. This is an example of the old, industrial model of application development. A single application developed for a singe purpose that the operator has to initialize.
In Android, Boingo is integrated into the wifi backbone of the phone and the information notification system. As I drive around my neighborhood, the phone alerts me automatically when I enter a Boingo hotspot and can connect. It tells me what I don’t know and helps me take advantage of services I may need. It is intelligent and by sharing information it offers me new opportunities. It gives me content and context, when I know I need it and when I don’t.
That’s the point of Data Governance. You need to learn what you don’t know and help others to benefit from that information. You need to enable and empower new information sharing technologies and methodologies. Include the excluded, bring in the outliers, benefit from diverse points of view and find new solutions to age old problems that have befuddled and bemoaned your organization for decades. You can’t warm over the same old stuff and call it Data Governance. You can’t govern data, manage information or knowledge because these things are inert.
But you can govern people and empower their decision-making with trusted information and insight about what’s going on every day that they don’t already know. Because with knowledge, human beings can change their behavior and that’s what Data Governance is all about – changing organizational behavior.
This isn’t a small thing. This is a very big thing. Its about the influence of Information on organizational structures, how corporations change how they work in an Information driven transformation. This change isn’t coming from within. We aren’t transforming organizations with information. My god, if that were the case we would have succeeded decades ago with the first mainframes. What’s happening today is that our organizations are being confronted with the change of billions of new sources of autonomous information production we don’t control. This is the mass of humanity communicating with each other over the Internet with the speed of now and the intimacy of a small village.
We aren’t transforming with information. We are being transformed by information, and this is a wave of change we are either riding or drowning in.
Newspapers, Magazines, Music and Movie production are already being replaced by global and autonomous information distribution. Not everywhere, not all at once. But even the strongest brands feel the pressure and are adapting to change. In the beginning they will change their models of distribution. Soon after, they will change models of work.
Industrial models of organization – Thomas Gradgrind and the repetitive drudgery of assembly-line work, the process controls and enslaving stopwatch measurements of efficiency – these last vestiges of the way we worked in the latter 19th and 20th Centuries hold on in our organizations like a virus resisting antibiotics. There are power structures invested in these models, and they will continue to hold on for some time yet to come.
But you need to ask yourselves. Where do you want to be working, in the past or in the future? Riding on the wave or under it?
Change isn’t just a word and Data Governance isn’t just an option.