Can technology-only projects succeed in data management?

16Oct06

My clients often see a lot of value in enterprise data management efforts (whether MDM, CDI, data quality efforts)  as a purely back end, technical effort. However, in order to add even more value to the effort then we often (read always…) need to look at the underlying business processes rather than looking at data and technology in isolation. As always, there needs to be a good understanding of the processes before we can work out what can be automated. What often happens in data-oriented projects is that the first choice for automation is reporting. This can be a trap which we need to be clear with the sponsor/client about the direction the project will take.

As a provider of enterprise data management we have to be clear about what we’re there to do. Typically, this is to improve the quality of some aspect of the organisation’s data landscape. We can’t do this unless we’ve included in the scope of the project room for the other classic drivers of people and process along with the more upfront data and technology.

 If changes to process and training/support for people are not in scope, the data might be good for, oh, about a minute, then the processes (and the people..) that populate the data stores are off again. When managing the scope we can be careful to steer away from ‘more reports’ and  include a chunk of process optimisation to align with the goal of the project, again, improving that set of data.  Because process and people work and software delivery work are very different beasts, the timescales involved mean that if the programme can be managed on differing timescales then they should be. 

The work around process and people is so important in a data management programme because it involves improving the quality of data at source. Technology can only do so much and its job becomes a lot easier when the processes and people are working in the right direction.

The superior doctor prevents sickness; The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; The inferior doctor treats actual sickness. Chinese Proverb

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