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The “Dirty Work” of Data, Courtesy of The Rolling Stones

Big data is a big deal

Data management ensures the right people get the right data, yet there is so much data we've had to invent the word "infoglut."

When The Rolling Stones last played the Hollywood Bowl, Mick Jagger paused between songs to comment when the band had previously played the Bowl it was 1969, and tickets were $4 apiece. Many of the people in the boxes -- the Bowl’s best seats, where a group of four or six can have dinner and drinks while they watch the show -- had paid upwards of $400 apiece for the privilege of seeing the Stones play the Bowl. If you looked around right after Mick’s remark, you could see a few of these big spenders twitch.

Back in the days when we had megabytes of data instead of terabytes, when getting information was as easy as yesterday’s sales report, when business involved three time zones and not 15, and when we just called a programmer when we needed data, we couldn’t have predicted what a big deal data would become. These days we have “infoglut.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice had we agreed on terminology back then so we’d have an institutionalized vocabulary now? We’d have a framework and categorization methods to simplify access to complex and disparate data. We’d have built metadata into our implementation processes. We’d be more educated about when to apply data management, and be ready to take on new needs such as unstructured data. Our data quality solutions would have transcended our data warehouses and be enterprisewide.

Master data management (MDM) relies on a “loosely coupled” approach, removing data from the purview of the applications and defining it on behalf of the enterprise. The whole premise of putting data management in place is to ensure that people who need the information can access and use it effectively and quickly. If you look at the proliferation of the sources and volumes of data, infoglut is here to stay.

Nowadays, many managers are using chaos as an excuse for not beginning the hard work of formal MDM and data governance efforts, but it’s only going to get worse. The longer we put off formalized rigor in managing our data, the more difficult it gets and the more expensive it becomes. If companies really think that data is a corporate asset, they need to start managing it now.

In the case of our corporate data, the Stones might actually be right: Time Waits for No One. Start pitching management for funding to formalize data management processes, acquire the enabling technologies, and hire or train for the skills, then, Ride On, Baby!

About the Author

Jill Dyché is an acknowledged speaker, author, and blogger on the topic of aligning IT with business solutions. As the vice president of SAS Best Practices, she speaks, writes, and blogs about the business value of analytics and information.

Prior to being acquired by SAS in 2011, Jill was a partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting, where she combined the roles of best practices expert, industry gadfly, key client adviser, and all-around thought leader. At both firms, she has led client strategies and market analysis in the areas of data governance, business intelligence, master data management (MDM), CRM, and big data.

Jill’s first book, e-Data (Addison Wesley), has been published in eight languages. Her book The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley) is the bestseller on the topic. With Evan Levy, Customer Data Integration (John Wiley and Sons) was the first book on the topic of MDM and discussed managing data as a strategic asset. Jill has contributed to a range of other books and her work has been featured in leading publications including Computerworld, CIO Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Harvard Business Review blog,, and Her latest book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders Enable Business Strategy in the Digital Age, profiles executives from companies including Comerica, Brooks Brothers, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Canadian Tire, Union Bank, Mandalay Resort Group, Men’s Wearhouse, and Toyota Financial Services, highlighting the roles they played in transforming IT and driving strategy.

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