I’ve heard technology departments complain for years about Shadow IT. There are many reasons (many perceived) why other departments resort to building solutions outside of the standard IT process –too slow, too expensive, and too process heavy to name just a few. I’m not going to advocate for Shadow IT as the potential consequences typically far outweigh the temporary benefits. But I’d rather drill into to one fundamental reason for its existence, especially in the Reporting and Analytics realm:

Your data sucks! Or at least that’s the perception of the people who matter.

They simply do not trust the data. When this situation exists, I suspect that either you do not have a Data Governance program or, even worse, that your Data Governance is only focused on restriction and prevention instead of enablement and discovery. Of course, data privacy and security should be at the top of anyone’s list as a single breach can cause devastating ramifications to your organization and your customers. This concept is represented by the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) versus the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO.) I summarize the role of the CISO as stopping bad things from happening to your data and the CDO as enabling good things to happen with your data. These may very well be responsibilities of the same person. They are somewhat in conflict must not exist without each other.

I’d like to focus on the enablement aspect of Data Governance. What are you doing for the true information consumers? In this case, a Data Governance program should provide complete, accurate, timely information that people trust. When doubt creeps in, trust flies out the window. So, how do you enable those good things?

Treat your data like you would your best team members:
Develop and Enrich its capabilities. You can develop its skills through training. In this case, that means cleansing, standardization, transformation, calculation, and aggregation. Train your data to be more valuable than it was on day one. Don’t let your data be disgruntled.
Give it a purpose. Every person wants a clearly defined role. Your data is no different. It craves a purpose or mission to fulfill its reason for existence. Let it be super sexy on a visualization, make a decision in an algorithm, or personalize content for your customers. Data without a purpose is just there for the auditors – boring.
Surround it with other smarties. We all want to work on a team with brilliant people where we can learn, collaborate, and share. Surround your well-trained purpose-driven data elements with other like-minded data elements and the value creation will skyrocket.
Keep a healthy relationship. Engage with your data on a regular basis to help you answer questions. But remember, queries are a one-way conversation like barking orders at a bunch of preschoolers to stand in a single file line. You also must listen. Sure, you can get your questions answered, but allow your data to challenge your traditions and intuition and bring a fresh perspective. If unresolvable conflicts arise, involve your mediator – aka CDO.
Give it a career path. Beyond an immediate purpose, we all need a plan. What are we doing today, tomorrow, and beyond? What is our lifecycle? Your data needs a plan too – from the day it is created to the day it retires. As it grows in value, leverage your data in more frequent, more varied, and more valuable ways. Once your data is in the sweet spot of relevance plus enrichment, it will achieve its fullest career potential. And please don’t complain about your Millennial data. That’s getting old.

When you build trust in your data, great things can happen!

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