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LESSON - Data Integration, Data Quality, and Data Stewardship: Finding Common Ground Between Business and IT

By Daniel Teachey, Senior Director of Marketing, DataFlux

Businesses are discovering that their success is increasingly tied to the quality and reliability of their information. As companies collect more and more information about their customers, products, suppliers, inventory, and finances, it becomes more difficult to accurately maintain that information in a usable, logical framework.

The data management challenges facing today’s businesses stem from the way IT systems have evolved. Enterprise data is frequently held in disparate applications across multiple departments and geographies. The confusion caused by this disjointed network of applications leads to poor customer service, redundant marketing campaigns, inaccurate product shipments and, ultimately, a higher cost of doing business. Add to that a sense of unrest and poor communication about data quality between departments and you’re at a standstill.

This impending data disaster leads companies to wonder how to reconcile data that affects, to varying degrees, multiple departments and business units within a corporation. Are all data issues the sole domain of the infrastructure/technology management wizards in IT? What can business/finance managers and analysts do to help ensure that corporate information is high quality?

These questions point to a central theme—is data quality an IT problem or a business problem? This debate has raged for years. Proponents of IT data management argue that only technology-savvy overseers are capable of handling customer, product, and other data; only they have the knowledge and expertise to govern data round-the-clock.

This control, however, comes at a cost. IT executives often say they don’t have time to manage an entire company’s data and shouldn’t have to clean up the business’s messes.

Business executives are often eager to take control because data is essential to their day-to-day operations. Line-of-business staff members can feel frustrated that another department is pulling the strings on how quickly data can be integrated, cleansed, and amalgamated to provide reporting and analysis.

Nonetheless, the business side has a problem, too. They can’t single-handedly manage enterprisewide data—that can lead to a fragmented, confused view of the organization. The systems are too complex, disconnected, or unassailable, and without IT’s help, business users can’t effectively manage data resources in most of their enterprise applications.

The answer is simple: both IT and business are responsible for ensuring data quality. But this answer leads to another level of complexity. If IT and business haven’t been working together in the past, the best option is to bring in a referee. A referee, in this case, is known as a “data steward.”

Data stewards can help a company make significant gains in managing its data. Simply put, data stewards are people trained to exclusively handle the middle ground between IT and business; they are technically savvy individuals who understand the corporate goals for the department, division, or enterprise.

The role of a data steward is to govern customer, product, supplier, and other types of data across various silos, including back-end and front-end systems across any department. They’re a solution to the IT-versus-business debate because they’re neutral and can see both sides of the equation.

Even savvy data stewards know the best technology in the world isn’t enough to ensure smooth data management. In the end, the integrity of a company’s data hinges on the integrity of its practices for collecting and managing data. Enabling an environment conducive to respect and cooperation can go a long way in effecting quality data that drives quality business decisions.

For a free white paper on this topic from DataFlux, click here and choose the title “Implementing a Data Management Methodology: A Do-It-Yourself Guide for High-Value Data Across the Enterprise.” For more free white papers, click here.

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