"An extraordinary thinker and strategist" "Great knowledge and a wealth of experience" "Informative and entertaining as always" "Captivating!" "Very relevant information" "10 out of 7 actually!" "In my over 20 years in the Analytics and Information Management space I believe Alan is the best and most complete practitioner I have worked with" "Surprisingly entertaining..." "Extremely eloquent, knowledgeable and great at joining the topics and themes between presentations" "Informative, dynamic and engaging" "I'd work with Alan even if I didn't enjoy it so much." "The quintessential information and data management practitioner – passionate, evangelistic, experienced, intelligent, and knowledgeable" "The best knowledgeable, enthusiastic and committed problem solver I have ever worked with" "His passion and depth of knowledge in Information Management Strategy and Governance is infectious" "Feed him your most critical strategic challenges. They are his breakfast." "A rare gem - a pleasure to work with."

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Data Governance - lets make beautiful music together.

I've been in my new post as Director of Data Governance at the University of New South Wales for about a month now.  

Most of my time has been spent trying to get to meet people and hear their perspectives on how things work around campus (or don't), what the key issues are, and just getting to grips with the scale of the challenge in an organisation of approximately 5000 staff (Or 8000. Or 13,500. It kind of depends on which definition of "staff" you're using - but that's another story...)

Anyway, I had the opportunity last week to present to the University's IT investment committee, a senior executive group comprising faculty managers, academic leaders and financial governance. I was allocated 10 minutes to introduce myself and provide an update on the Data Governance agenda. Now, it's already clear that the University has an appetite to do something significant with respect to the usage and accountability for data (the fact that they've hired me is a statement of intent!). But let's be honest - there are going to be relatively few members of the university community who need to (or want to) get to grips with the wider scope, complexity and subtlety of and Enterprise-wide Data Governance and Information Management operating model! 

So I was struggling to think of a way to frame my agenda in a manner that was going to convey the scale of the task ahead without scaring everyone (or boring them rigid), and I came up with an analogy that seemed to resonate with the audience.

If we think of the University (or any other organisation for that matter) as an orchestra, then the various Faculties, Schools and Business Units are the musical sections, and the staff are the individual musicians. The organisation's data is the music to be played and the role of the Data Governance function is analogous to the conductor. 

Now, the outcome for any orchestra is to be able to give a concert to a paying audience (and get them to come back again…). The enabling capabilities which are required to get the concert on stage are a complex mix of contributions from numerous different people, applying multiple processes and skills, with the agreement of all participants to work towards the same goals:

  1. All musicians need to have the skills to play their allocated instrument. (not necessarily a given!)
  2. Someone has to write the music, orchestrate it, publish it, make sure the sheet music is brought to rehearsals.
  3. We have an agreed running order for the concert.
  4. Everyone needs to be playing the same tunes, at the same speed, and starting at the same time.
  5. Rehearsals and practice (individually, in Sections, and together as an Orchestra).
  6. Marketing the concert, booking the tickets, ushering the audience.
  7. The performance.

So Data Governance is about consciously and competently orchestrating and conducting all the various efforts throughout the organisation, so that whatever data we have (or need to have) is available, in context, and usable for a range of well-defined purposes.

Underpinning our data orchestra are an established set of formal practices, processes and protocols that define the institutional capability required, many of which may only exist in part, some not at all. Initially, we need to establish which of these services are needed, where are the gaps, and how they will be fulfilled. e.g.

Organisational Capabilities:
  • Data Governance Steering Committee, focussing on Data/Information issues.
  • Formal identification of Data Owners & Stewards for each data asset.
  • Fora that bring together the community of Collectors and Consumers of each given information domain. 
  • Information Management/Business Intelligence Competency Centre
  • Value-added analytic services and support the whole-of-institution approach.
  • Business Glossary and metadata management techniques for collating and communicating common & consistent data definitions;
  • Data Quality Profiling & remediation service;

  • Robust, scalable Data Warehouse & BI that is insulated from, and supports, change. 

Now, does everyone need to know or care about all the detailed practices & protocols, or how all the complexity happens? NO.

But I’d content that everyone does need to know about “their bit”, where the information touch-points are with other parts of the organisation, and that whatever their doing fits into the overall context.

To go back to the orchestra analogy, each individual musician doesn’t need to know how the composer and music publisher does their job, but they do need to know that the sheet music is going to be available, and that they’ve got to turn up at the Opera House on Tuesday week for a recital…

Which I guess makes yours truly the baton-wielding eccentric with the funny tailcoat suit and mad hairdo...