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And how do we know we can trust it?
On August 5, 2010 we launched the Information Governance Community and today on January 24, 2011 we have 862 members. As Each new member joins our Community they fill out a 15 question survey. The questions themselves come from a Data Governance Survey IBM conducted with the BeyeNetwork last summer. That survey included 407 responses and since August, 510 additional surveys have been completed. I am sharing results from both surveys to provide historical context because I think the trend lines are interesting. However, I can only provide a short subset of three of the 15 questions posed.
The three questions asked are:
1. How do you see the importance of Information Governance changing over the next 3 to 5 years in relation to business success within your organziation?
2. How valuable do your business executives consider Information Governance to be in the following areas?
3. In your opinion, which of the following information-related projects requires Information Governance to be successful?
So we polled both sides of the debate – business and IT. And I think Both the results illustrate the growing importance of Information Governance to both audiences.
Lets get to the results.
Question: “How do you see the importance of Information Governance changing over the next 3 to 5 years in relation to business success within your organization.”
Here are the results from the earlier survey in 2010:
In the latest survey results, the numbers show an increase in perceived importance. 88% feel it will grow in importance and only 10% thought it would stay the same.
I think this shows a very strong indication of the growing importance of Information Governance over the next 3 to 5 years. The new sample size is double the old one.
We then asked the same members to rate how their business executives value Information Governance as a means for solving key challenges. The scale used was 1 to 5, where 1=Not at all Valuable, and 2=Somewhat Valuable, 3=Valuable, 4=Very Valuable, and 5=Essential. In the earlier survey, this is how the 407 respondents answered that question:
However, among the 510 Community members who answered the same questions over the last 5 months showed no doubt about their responses.
These members feel that Information Governance is essential for solving key business issues.
“Not at all is a tiny minority in this survey report.” Our membership is quite diverse, representing over 20 industries and countries across the world. Yet their responses show a global uniformity:
Information Governance is vital to solving key business issues that vex every industry on every continent.
Finally, we also asked our members which IT Challenges could not be successful without Information Governance, and their responses again illustrate the criticality of this emerging discipline. In the initial survey 273 customers responded, and in the Community survey we had 420 additional responses:
Let me be clear and let the evidence show: Information Governance is not a subset of Enterprise Information Management. It is not a new fad, a small component of the age-old battle that Data Management professionals wage to gain recognition for their profession.
No. Information Governance is the next evolutionary level.
Join the Information Governance Community and make a difference.
Last year, I was speaking on a panel at a conference in Washington DC. I was last in a long line of distinguished speakers who all had about 10 minutes to get through 50 charts. Third to last was a terrific speaker from a public utility who talked about why an energy company wants to sent IP over power lines. It isn’t to deliver internet services to homes, though that has been tried in the past. Rather, he told us, it is to enable a new generation of internet enabled devices in the home to be switched on and off remotely by the local power utility. Imagine, he narrated, how wonderful it would be if the power company could turn off your heating system and electricity while you are on vacation and don’t need it and then switch it all on just hours before you return. Your home would be warm in the winter and cool in the summer when you are in it – just don’t leave any milk in the refrigerator. He also suggested that IP connected dishwashers and washing machines could be cycled on at night when power demand is low and utility bills could be calibrated to reflect power usage during different times of the day, with cheaper rates at off-peak hours. And the communication could be bi-directional, so that people with wind farms in their backyards or solar panels on their roofs could sell energy upstream to the utility at peak and off-peak rates. All of this was part of his vision for a Smart Grid.
He admitted that getting people to permit the power utility to remotely turn their dishwashers on and off was a hard sell. But he also told us that getting people to change their behavior and conserve energy in the most efficient ways possible was also a very hard sell. People just aren’t consistent. They forget, get distracted, and worst of all… they are all different. You can’t get an entire town to wash their dishes at the same time every evening!
Variance is so inefficient. His solution was political. He wanted to impose a form of authoritarian control over energy usage. I’m sure he wouldn’t call it that. Madison Avenue would jazz it up with a bumper sticker like “Energy Independence….” But if you want to look at this solution from a governance perspective, the political model in question is a mild form of authoritarianism (“Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority.”) That’s a governance model, and guess what…its the one most commonly used in every organization around the world.
It is not the source of your data problems. The source is Variance. If everyone did everything the same, and the same was good, you would have the same definitions for everything, the same copies of data, and the same levels of data use and protection. And it would be harmonious. Unfortunately, all the humans in your company would be dead. Because human beings do not produce the same anything. Variance, or variability, is the source of creativity, innovation, and we cherish that about ourselves.
So if the source of data problems is Variance, why does authoritarian control produce inefficient outcomes and what can we do about it? This is a little harder to describe. In a nutshell it comes down to the fact that people don’t like other people telling them what to do. They will follow orders in some situations, but not in all, especially when it violates their self-interests, and they will resist orders in small and large ways that create variance.
My hypothesis is that people will produce fewer variances when they believe they are following their own orders – when it is in their self-interest to do so. Modern management science tells us that this is about buy-in, that we are selling people a policy that they espouse themselves because they have been consulted in its creation and exercise some control over their own behavior. Its a form of self-governance, and I was eager to believe in it because I didn’t want to believe in the authoritarian model.
Following my conference in Washington, I told my wife about the panel presentation and the utility presentation. I asked her how she would feel about the power company turning on and off our appliances. I won’t repeat the explicative that suggestion produced. But my wife, who is very broad minded, empathized with the position of the utility company. Americans drive big cars, heat huge homes, and use more energy per capita than any other nation on earth. Getting Americans to change their energy consumption habits is extremely difficult. It took the Europeans decades of energy policy to reach the levels of conservation evident today. And Americans don’t seem to have the desire to embrace large tax increases on energy consumption. We brainstormed that idea together for a while, and we wondered if part of the problem isn’t caused by a broken relationship between energy usage and cost. We use electricity every day but we don’t get the bill until the end of the month, and even then the power guy has to read our meter to accurately gauge our correct energy usage. So the pain is always deferred. Appliances don’t tell us how much energy they are using and how much it is costing us and we wondered if our behavior would change if we actually knew how much we were using when we were using it.
We postulated that energy consumption behavior would change if Americans would be constantly reminded of how much energy they were using and what it was costing them instantaneously. This idea is consistent with all my pronouncements that the only way to govern the use of information is with information, that human beings will only change their behavior when confronted with information about it and its consequences. Its part of my faith in the decision-making capacities of human beings, that their self-interest will produce the right outcomes overall. This was a hypothesis we decided to test in our own home. We went out and bought four of these things:
They connect to your outlets and tell you how much electricity you are using and how much it is costing you on a monthly and yearly basis. We decided to put the four of them in outlets where each of us used the most electricity independently. We put one in the living room where the TV and hi-fi were connected because that’s where my wife watches TV at night. We connected one each to the socket where our son’s have their computers and game consoles. And we connected one in my home office where my computer gear is set up. At first we just put them there without an explanation. For the first week, the devices read the energy usage and forecast the monthly and yearly amounts. After that week, the readout is more accurate as I guess it takes some data and usage numbers to provide accurate estimates.
We had thought that just the mere existence of an accurate energy readout and description of costs would itself prompt a change in behavior. And it did. For me. I knew how the devices worked, what the readout meant, and more than that I knew why they were there and what we hoped to achieve. It was my policy and the numbers meant a lot to me. My wife supported the idea but it really wasn’t her policy so she didn’t have as much at stake. The kids had no idea what the data meant and since they didn’t pay the electricity bill they didn’t care about the math. My oldest son takes AP Earth Science and is a bigger conservationist than I am, so he took an interest in the data and understood what it meant.
But the hypothesis that information itself would change behavior was not fully born out by the first part of this home experiment. I changed my behavior – I turned off the gear when I left the room, and was conscious about having things on that I wasn’t using. But it was my policy and it produced a better outcome for me. The mistake I made in implementation is I didn’t establish a common problem of energy inefficiency and cost with my family before we implemented the program. I didn’t include them in the decision to buy the electricity monitor and we didn’t read the instructions together and decide on how to implement the monitor program. Ironically, while I had hoped to test the hypothesis that human beings can govern their own behavior more efficiently I had chosen an authoritarian model of implementation because I did not involve everyone in the process.I think if we had done that we might all have changed our behavior based on the information we received.
But I think that change would have been short lived. What I witnessed myself is that people change most when confronted with new information and new circumstances. When the device was on my desk for more than a month it became just a number I knew and my old habits came back. I stopped caring about the usage and the costs and grew lax in my own enforcement of my own policy. I just accepted the new situation as a new status quo and returned to old behaviors. And when I didn’t monitor my own usage, my family stopped caring about them at all. I found my youngest son had even removed his and I hadn’t noticed for a few weeks.
You might read this story and conclude that self-governance doesn’t work. That would be the wrong conclusion. Governance itself, in any form, works to limited degrees. We all have collective goals that we want to achieve that none of us on our own could. We create and submit to governance to achieve those goals through collaboration and coordination. What we often fail to do in most organizations is change the ideology of our governance models to achieve better results. Or if we do this, it is not on purpose and we often don’t understand when we should. We use lots of different political models without naming them. In my home, I could well imagine using a democratic model to establish an energy conservation movement and some authoritarian controls to occasionally enforce new policies. I could also give my children energy credits each month and let them decide for themselves how to use them. Each of these “solutions” has a political model name associated with it but I wouldn’t have thought about how to implement a policy with a model to achieve a better outcome.
I would ultimately argue that none of these political or economic models would work 100% all the time. Human beings will adapt to the new status and revert to old behaviors. And the same is true of data or information governance. If the default behavior in your organization is very positive and your variance rate is below 5%, by all means don’t fix what isn’t broke. But if your default behaviors produce significant variance, and you want better data and information outcomes please consider a new information infrastructure to provide organizational awareness about information use and change your governing models and policies often, and with purpose, to keep the game lively.
Otherwise expect results that are shorter lived than desired. If you want to effectively govern the use of information you have to change organizational behavior and includes how you govern too.
Without change, nothing changes…
If you work in Paris, speak French, and care about the Impact of Information on Governance, and Governance on Information, save this date – April 15, 2011.
Because the Information Governance Council is meeting at the George C. Marshall Center (the building where there Marshall Plan was created) at the Embassy of the United States of America, on the Place de la Concorde, in Paris, France.
My aunt Helen had an opinion on everything. An information junkie long before the Internet, she consumed at least three newspapers a day and watched untold hours of news television. If she didn’t know about an issue directly, you could be sure she had enough reference points to issue an authoritative verdict. I spent many weekends in her ancient Cheshire farmhouse with the musket holes in the foundation to protect against indian raids and the secret spot behind the fireplace where slaves hid in the 1850′s Freedom Railroad on their way north to Canada. Dusty newspapers from the 1960′s clogged the front staircase that was never used. Every National Geographic since 1940 sat piled in closets and behind sofas. Photos and postcards sat in boxes everywhere. Nothing got thrown away. Even the dust had dust. Her home was a database, her brain the ultimate computational instrument, an informational repository without parallel in our family.
Helen’s knowledge of the world seemed to extend way beyond the bounds of her 1730 home. When I was young, I sat in awe of her voluminous and expansive mind never daring to question or challenge any of her positions. But as I grew into adolescence I began wondering if some her statements weren’t maybe a little made up, or at least extrapolations of things she knew into things she thought she knew or could know with just a little imagination. But woe to you if you challenged her without some backup because she sure did know a lot and her mind was so sharp you could be reduced to blabbering in a microsecond if you really didn’t do your homework and research a topic.
But when I got to about 20, attending college – the place you went to get important information before Google put it on our smartphones in the subway – I started to learn that lots of what Helen said wasn’t quite the way she said it. It wasn’t that it was completely wrong, its just that it wasn’t really always black and white the way she presented it. There were lots of different ways you could see and interpret the information. And you could construct a perfectly valid and well thought out argument that tied her up in intellectual knots. And back at the farm that summer we had some great arguments. Fact is, Helen was often at least partially right and wrong about a lot of things. Not philosophically wrong, because that’s a matter of belief.
Factually in error, but never in doubt.
Her conviction was the secret of her intellectual strength. We’ve all known people like Helen, and many of you who know me are probably already murmuring “ahh, that’s where he got that…” But I didn’t bring up this point to wax about my family heritage or personality. I brought it up because this characteristic is one we find every day in our organizations, in the newspapers, on the web, in our governments. People develop points of view and stick to them, and getting people to see beyond their point of view is really a challenge. It isn’t that the information is wrong, its that people interpret information in the way they see and want to see the world.
Information itself is a human creation. The computer didn’t put it there. It isn’t immutable, dirty until cleaned, chaste, pure, imperfect until perfected. It is a reflection of us, and since we created it, its sometimes wrong or the truth is at best a mixed result.
But what’s to blame for that? Your Metadata? Your Business Glossary? Data Architecture? Security & Privacy? Audit? Your Organization?
YES! All of the above. Everyone who creates and uses information is involved in its interpretation and implementation. You don’t have to be a data architect to influence the way information is used in an organization. Any iPhone or Android user has a role in information management today. Bloggers, vloggers, and photographers shape and shade their creations to effect a mood, sell a product, influence an outcome. Everyone with a data connection is a source and a target and we all must accept responsibility for how we govern the use of OUR information.
Here’s an example from two photos I took. The one on the left is the “real one.” The one on the right has been changed, er…enhanced.
Which one do you like better?
Fact is, the one on the right has better atmosphere and the reflection makes it a better image. But the reflection was created with layers in Gimp (open source photoshop). It isn’t what I saw when I framed the image and pressed the shutter. And I certainly wasn’t anywhere near close enough to take that photo with that kind of reflection. But I can put a reflection, fake rain, change the light, add the sun and moon in any photo with less than an hour’s work. And the resulting images are beautiful and many people like them more than the “real” ones.
We often prefer information that meets our expectations of “beauty” even if it isn’t real, accurate, or even honest. But I just said that to influence your opinion, your rendering of the information. You’ve now been polluted with my interpretation. I like the altered photo and as the author of it I’ve injected my value judgment that it is a better image, more beautiful than the “real” image. I’ve sold it to you and maybe you bought it – selected the enhanced over the real, traded truth for beauty.
Don’t we all? Isn’t it human nature? And how do you stop that? How do you arrest opinion, remove the varnish on the business case that presents the best possible outcome, change the sales report with the nice forecast based on data that’s six months old, alter the risk formula that every knows and likes because its easier than doing real math and reading real numbers?
It’s the question everyone implicitly asks when they embark on Information Governance. How do you change?
With information of course!
Those consultants who tell you how to “govern the data” with all those tools are not helping anyone but themselves. Tools like Business Glossaries, Metadata workbenches, Master Data Management, Data Quality Profiling, and Audit help us understand when our information is out-dated, inaccurate, partially true, unreal, or just plain boulder-dash. Use those tools to illuminate the fake. Shine metadata on the dark corners where opinions and habits force difficult debates to unlock the truth.
Information is the only tool we have to change behavior.
Want to succeed with Information Governance? Get Aware. Get the real images and compare them to the fake. Make people choose between what they think is trustworthy data and what is really information that can be trusted.
Know what’s happening yourselves, report, and share it. Use your Information Governance tools to build operational awareness.
People will change their opinions when confronted with evidence and a solid argument, and that’s what you want – Change from Information.
You’re not Governing Information. You’re Governing People who use Information.
I learned a lot from my aunt Helen and I still hear her voice strong as ever. Sometimes wrong, never in doubt.