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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

IT’s Mindset Can Limit the Value of Data

Promote a balanced perspective from IT leaders to increase the value of data to your business users.

IT leaders are positioned to dramatically improve the value of your business data. A simple perspective shift can either limit or create more business value.

IT is often considered the custodian of corporate data; they make sure data is properly cared for so it is useful and accessible. IT is generally also responsible for data security. If there isn’t a balanced approach to data governance, these two guiding principles can conflict.

The balance between accessibility and security is like a swinging pendulum. To one side is the domineering mindset: “for proper governance you have to jump through hoops before you get access to data.” To the other is the passive mindset: “it’s easier to give you what you ask for; I only provide the data.” Finding the right balance between security and accessibility is a challenge.

If an IT leader is only focused on minimum expectations or holds one of these unbalanced views, it can limit your organization’s ability to derive value from your data. In this article I will discuss the problems with these two mindsets and offer tips for maintaining a happy medium.

The Domineering Mindset

Under a domineering IT organization, you will find frustrated, demotivated business users who are weary and worn from jumping through hoops to get their data. Among the hoops:

  • Precertification processes that can take months or even years to complete
  • Lengthy user-access review processes
  • Security policies that deny permission to all raw data or database-level access
  • No way for users to integrate their own data

Domineering IT personnel are also unwilling to consider different technologies that might improve data utilization.

Although these practices are usually rooted in security concerns, sometimes they are just out-of-date policies. They are common in IT departments that are fearful of exposing issues with current data or adding more to their workload; at times IT is simply disconnected from the needs of the business.

The Passive Mindset

With a passive IT organization, you will find detached and independent business users who have stopped pursuing help from IT. Signs that you are dealing with this mindset include:

  • IT relegates control of the data to the business owners because it doesn’t want the responsibility
  • IT isn’t an advocate for the value of the data, leaving business users to fend for themselves
  • IT is content with lower budgets, leading to an inability to provide meaningful value due to lack of resources (further demotivating the team)
  • IT sees itself only as a vendor to the business and not as a partner

Underwhelming IT leadership leads to a lack of innovation and meaningful strategy.

The Balanced Mindset

Business users have the best opportunity to flourish when they work with a balanced and business-centric IT organization. You will know a balanced IT organization when your business users are zealous about the strategy and are empowered to perform their jobs on a daily basis. They will say that IT champions business value, promotes robust data capabilities, and ensures low-risk data policies are in place.

Here are some principles for IT leadership that will help create a healthy, balanced mindset:

  • Take business concerns seriously without sacrificing security or technical mandates
  • Cut the bureaucratic red tape; simply put, if users can’t access it, it’s not useful
  • Review data policies and improve or discard those without real security and business benefit
  • Align IT strongly with the business objectives of the enterprise
  • Share and own business outcomes, not just technical objectives

Avoid both domineering and passive mindsets in your IT organization. Successful IT organizations today are those with business-centered teams that are highly focused on business value. They can be the champion of data your business users need.

About the Author

Wes Flores has 25 years of experience in the technology and analytics space making an impact as a senior IT executive with Fortune 100 and SMB companies alike. As a strategist and solution architect, Wes brings a business-first mindset to technology solutions and approaches for his clients. His experience spans private and public sectors across many industries such as telecom, healthcare, insurance, finance, hospitality, and higher education. Wes has been honored with numerous industry awards including Top 25 Information Managers from Information Magazine and the BI Perspectives award from Computer World for Business Intelligence Solutions. Most recently his company, of which he is a co-founder, was recognized as a top 10 analytics solutions provider by CIO Applications magazine. Wes shares his expertise gained in advisory and program leadership roles through industry blogs and international speaking engagements. You can contact the author via email.

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