George Colony, our CEO, just released a post on his blog about enterprise architecture, aptly enough named “Enterprise Architects For Dummies (CEOs).” I retweeted the post to my followers and received a flood of responses, most of which were violently disagreeing with George’s assertion that EA works for the CIO. I think this is a pointless argument, but underscores a very important change that most are missing.
Here’s what I mean:
The objection to putting EA under the CIO is based on an old-school notion.That notion is that CIOs are chief technology infrastructure managers. Our data shows that the role of CIO is changing, fueled by cloud and other as-a-service technology. CTOs or VPs of IT are increasingly taking on the job we used to think of as the CIO, while progressive CIOs are evolving to something else. Locating EA under the CTO is a bad idea, we all agree.
Every business is a digital business.If you don’t believe me, I’ll send you a pile of research. There is no such thing as a non-information-centric business anymore — or at least there won’t be for very long, because they are going out of business. Forrester has been using the term “business technology” (BT) for a while to indicate that there is no room for having separate business and IT — it simply won’t work much longer. Even in the most paper, analog verticals, we can give you example after example; check out Monsanto’s IFS (they are a seed company!).
What data do you trust? Increasingly, business stakeholders and data scientists trust the information hidden in the bowels of big data. Yet, how data is mined mostly circumvents existing data governance and data architecture due to speed of insight required and support data discovery over repeatable reporting.
The key to this challenge is a data quality reboot: rethink what matters, and rethink data governance.
Part 1 of our Data Quality Reboot Series is to rethink master data management (MDM) in a big data world.
Current thinking: Master data as a single data entity. A common theme I hear from clients is that master data is about the linked data elements for a single record. No duplication or variation exists to drive consistency and uniqueness. Master data in the current thinking represents a defined, named entity (customer, supplier, product, etc.). This is a very static view of master data and does not account for the various dimensions required for what is important within a particular use case. We typically see this approach tied tightly to an application (customer resource management, enterprise resource management) for a particular business unit (marketing, finance, product management, etc.). It may have been the entry point for MDM initiatives, and it allowed for smaller scope tangible wins. But, it is difficult to expand that master data to other processes, analysis, and distribution points. Master data as a static entity only takes you so far, regardless of whether big data is incorporated into the discussion or not.
I receive a lot of inquiries from clients about an EA maturity/assessment model. It’s proven to be a common and excellent way to track EA’s progress and influence plans — so common that we dedicated an entire report to it in our EA Practice Playbook, and we have an upcoming webinar for enterprise architects who want to build/customize their own model. The usual backstory is that an EA leader wants (or has been asked) to create a model from scratch or customize an external model to fit the organization. It’s usually about a 50/50 split between those options.
And what starts as a simple over-the-weekend project quickly becomes a frustrating struggle. The criteria pile up quickly — after all, EA does a lot of things. The granularity is inconsistent — one can measure a piece of a process or the larger process it belongs to. The scoring scale causes frustration — it can score many aspects of your criteria — and is either vague or specific. And when compared to other models, it inevitably looks vastly different from each one. It isn’t long before other day-to-day priorities put the effort on the back burner.
As one who has gone through the exercise a few times, I’ve got five tips that can help you move along faster and complete your model before other priorities swallow it up:
Let’s face it: managing data is not an easy task. The business certainly wishes, and may even think, that this is the case. So, we cut corners on fulfilling data requirements to meet short-term demands. We lay aside more strategic investment that would best support our strategies, have a wider value across the business, and build toward a proper foundation for the long term.
Today, our data architecture gets held together with duct tape. Even if we have used the new “pretty” duct tape that comes in colors, camouflage, and animal patterns, it is still duct tape.
What we are now faced with is more data silos, inconsistency in data quality, and challenges to provide a single view of your business. Investments made to provide a strong data foundation have either withered behind business as usual or have been collecting cobwebs from lack of use. I call this data technical debt, and it is holding your business back both in getting information the business needs and allowing for agility to meet the increasing variety of use cases.
To move forward, what are things we can do?
1. Make sure there is a strong vision for a desired state.
2. Recognize milestones needed to achieve the desired state.
3. Continuously align project requests to milestones to ensure progress is made on the vision.
4. Align and consolidate projects with similar milestone contributions to expand the value of vision widely and faster.
I’ll be chairing Big Data World Europe on September 19 in London; in advance of that event, here are a few thoughts.
Since late 2011, we’ve seen the big data noise level eclipse cloud and even BYOD, and we are seeing the backlash too (see Death By Big Data, to which I tweeted, “Yes, I suppose, ‘too much of anything is a bad thing’”). The number one thing clients want to know is, “What is my competition doing? Give me examples I can talk to my business about.” These questions reflect a curiosity on the part of IT and a “peeking under the hood to see what’s there” attitude.
My advice is to start the big data journey with your feet on the ground and your head around what it really is. Here are some “rules” I’ve been using with folks I talk to:
● First rule of big data: don’t talk about big data. The old adage holds true here — those that can do big data do it, those that can’t talk <yup, I see the irony :-)>. I was on the phone with a VP of analytics who reflected that her IT people were constantly bringing new technologies to them like a dog with a bone. Her general reaction is, show me the bottom-line value. So what to do? Instead of talking to your business about big data, find ways to solve problems more affordably with data at greater scale. Now that’s “doing big data.”
As the new analyst on the block at Forrester, the first question everyone is asking is, “What research do you have planned?” Just to show that I’m up for the task, rather than keeping it simple with a thoughtful report on data quality best practices or a maturity assessment on data management, I thought I’d go for broke and dive into the master data management (MDM) landscape. Some might call me crazy, but this is more than just the adrenaline rush that comes from doing such a project. In over 20 inquiries with clients in the past month, questions show increased sophistication in how managing master data can strategically contribute to the business.
What do I mean by this?
Number 1: Clients want to know how to bring together transitional data (structured) and content (semi-structured and unstructured) to understand the customer experience, improve customer engagement, and maximize the value of the customer. Understanding customer touch points across social media, e-commerce, customer service, and content consumption provides a single customer view that lets you customize your interactions and be highly relevant to your customer. MDM is at the heart of bringing this view together.
Number 2: Clients have begun to analyze big data within side projects as a way to identify opportunities for the business. This intelligence has reached the point that clients are now exploring how to distribute and operationalize these insights throughout the organization. MDM is the point that will align discoveries within the governance of master data for context and use.