Big Data

By Robert S. Seiner, KIK Consulting/TDAN.com

The management of data and information is very similar to the management of one’s health.

If you do not take care of your personal health, poor health has a way of catching up with you. Once the poor health becomes an issue, it can take a long time or even forever to get past, or deal with, the issues—depending on how far south your health has gone.

What about your data? If you do not take care of your personal or organization’s data, then your data health can go south as well. Or, if you have not been taking good care of your data’s health for a long time, you may have a serious data health issue on your hands that does not just call for small changes to your data behavior here and there. Very poor data health might call for major surgery, such as the re-engineering of your organization’s entire data infrastructure.

Gauge Your Organization’s Data Health

Just like when you go to the doctor, the first thing that must take place when gauging your organization’s data health is an evaluation of your present data health. It is a good idea to know about all that ails you before you begin prescribing a remedy. There are three key actions to consider when evaluating your organization’s data health.

Your organization’s data health depends on how well you define, produce and use your data. Improvements in data management are typically tied to one or more of these actions. I will use these three actions to focus on ways you can change your data habits.

Change the Way You Define Data

Quality data and valuable data begins with quality data definition. The chances are that your organization has the same or very similarly defined data in duplicate (often a large number of) places. This is a result of organizational siloed behavior when it comes to enhancing existing information systems or defining what they think is new data in new information systems. This is also a result of organizations acquiring other organizations or breaking organizations into pieces.

The data in your information systems may or may not be defined the same way. The value you get from your data depends on how well you understand the data and what you know about where to get the best version of your data. The first way to improve your data’s health is to focus on the discipline of defining data.

Change the Way You Produce Data

Organizations are finding ways to produce more and more new and better data from old data every time they integrate data sources to solve a problem. Many organizations acquire data from outside sources and are focusing governance on the process of who is allowed to acquire what data. The rate of data growth and data production is astonishing.

This growth makes it important for us to inventory and understand all of the data that is being produced and acquired. This growth makes it obvious that all organizations evaluating ways to change data habits should focus on data production and data acquisition as areas that will lead to better data health.

Change the Way You Use Data

Some organizations choose to focus on data usage habits first when looking to gain management’s support and conviction for governing data. Protecting sensitive data is easy for management to understand, because they recognize this action as being “not optional.” The same holds true for following regulatory reporting (of data) guidelines. Management knows that the rules associated with protection and regulations are being dictated to them, and thus it becomes easy for them to understand and remedy poor data usage health.

However, the use of data for analytical purposes is a conscious decision, often made by management, that requires serious data health and discipline. Assessing your habits associated with data usage, including how well the data is understood, classified and protected, is critical to improving the value your organization gets from using its data.

Summary

Organizations should focus on how well they define, produce and use data as the three primary actions that can be taken with data as they look to evaluate their present data health and look toward good health in the future. Data health echoes peoples’ personal health. If health problems are ignored, they tend to grow more and more difficult to resolve. Let’s all raise a glass and wish for better health all around.