Data Science And "Closed-Loop" Analytics Changes Master Data Strategy

Michele Goetz
I had a conversation recently with Brian Lent, founder, chairman, and CTO of Medio. If you don’t know Brian, he has worked with companies such as Google and Amazon to build and hone their algorithms and is currently taking predictive analytics to mobile engagement. The perspective he brings as a data scientist not only has ramifications for big data analytics, but drastically shifts the paradigm for how we architect our master data and ensure quality.
 
We discussed big data analytics in the context of behavior and engagement. Think shopping carts and search. At the core, analytics is about the “closed loop.” It is, as Brian says, a rinse and repeat cycle. You gain insight for relevant engagement with a customer, you engage, then you take the results of that engagement and put them back into the analysis.
 
Sounds simple, but think about what that means for data management. Brian provided two principles:
  • Context is more important than source.
  • You need to know the customer.
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Q&A With Greg Swimer, VP IT, Business Intelligence, Unilever

Kyle McNabb

In advance of next week’s Forrester’s European Business Technology Forums in London on June 10 and 11, we had an opportunity to speak with Greg Swimer about information management and how Unilever delivers real-time data to its employeesGreg Swimer is a global IT leader at Unilever, responsible for delivering new information management, business intelligence, reporting, consolidation, analytics, and master data solutions to more than 20,000 users across all of Unilever’s businesses globally.
 

1) What are the two forces you and the Unilever team are balancing with your “Data At Your Fingertips” vision?

Putting the data at Unilever’s fingertips means working on two complementary aspects of information management. One aspect is to build an analytics powerhouse with the capacity to handle big data, providing users with the technological power to analyse that data in order to gain greater insight and drive better decision-making. The other aspect is the importance of simplifying and standardizing that data so that it’s accessible enough to understand and act upon. We want to create a simplified landscape, one that allows better decisions, in real time, where there is a common language and a great experience for users.

 

2) What keys to success have you uncovered in your efforts?

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Why Maturity Models for Data Governance are irrelevant in the Data Economy?

Henry Peyret

 

There are multiple maturity models and associated assessments for Data Governance on the market. Some are from software vendors, or from consulting companies, which use these as the basis for selling services.  Others are from professional groups like the one from the Data Governance Council.

They are all good – but frankly not adequate for the data economy many companies are entering into.  I think it is useful to reshuffle some too well established ideas...

Maturity models in general are attractive because:

-                       Using a maturity model is nearly a ‘no-brainer’ exercise. You run an assessment and determine your current maturity level. Then you can make a list of the actions which will drive you to the next level. You do not need to ask your business for advice, nor involve too many people for interviews.

-                       Most data governance maturity models are modeled on the very well known CMMI. That means that they are similar at least in terms of structure/levels. So the debate between the advantages of one vs another is limited to its level of detail.

But as firms move into the data economy – with what this means for their sourcing, analyzing and leveraging data, I think that today’s maturity models for data governance are becoming less relevant – and even an impediment:

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Big Data: The Big Divide Between IT and Business

Michele Goetz

 

I met with a group of clients recently on the evolution of data management and big data.  One retailer asked, “Are you seeing the business going to external sources to do Big Data?”

My first reaction was, “NO!” Yet, as I thought about it more and went back to my own roots as an analyst, the answer is most likely, “YES!”

Ignoring nomenclature, the reality is that the business is not only going to external sources for big data, but they have been doing it for years.  Think about it; organizations that have considered data a strategic tool have invested heavily in big data going back to when mainframes came into vogue.  More recently, banking, retail, consumer packaged goods, and logistics have marquis case studies on what sophisticated data use can do. 

Before Hadoop, before massive parallel processing, where did the business turn?  Many have had relationships with market research organizations, consultancies, and agencies to get them the sophisticated analysis that they need. 

Think about the fact, too, that at the beginning of social media, it was PR agencies that developed the first big data analysis and visualization of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook influence.  In a past life, I worked at ComScore Networks, an aggregator and market research firm analyzing and trending online behavior.  When I joined, they had the largest and fastest growing private cloud to collect web traffic globally. Now, that was big data.

Today, the data paints a split picture.  When surveying IT across various surveys, social media and online analysis is a small percentage of business intelligence and analytics that is supported.  However, when we look to the marketing and strategy clients at Forrester, there is a completely opposite picture. 

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Without Data Management Standards – Anarchy!

Michele Goetz

 

When I posted a blog on Don’t Establish Data Management Standards (it was also on Information Management's website as Data Management Standards are a Barrier) I expected some resistance.  I mean, why post a blog and not have the courage to be provocative, right?  However, I have to say I was surprised at the level of resistance.  Although, I also have to point out that this blog was also one of the most syndicated and recommended I have had.  I will assume that there is a bit of an agreement with it as well as I didn't see any qualifiers in tweets that I was completely crazy.  Anyway, here are just a few dissenter comments:

“This article would be funny if it wasn't so sad...you can't do *anything* in IT (especially innovate) without standing on the shoulders of some standard.” – John O

“Show me data management without standards and good process to review and update them and I'll show you the mortgage crisis which developed during 2007.” – Jim F 

“This article is alarmingly naive, detrimental, and counterproductive. Let me count the ways…” – Cynthia H

"No control leads to caos... I would be amused to watch the reaction of the ISO engineer while reading this article :)." - Eduardo G  (I would too!)

After wiping the rotten tomatoes from my face from that, here are some points made that get to the nuance I was hoping to create a discussion on:

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Don't Establish Data Management Standards

Michele Goetz

A recent survey of Enterprise Architects showed a lack of standards for data management.* Best practices has always been about the creation of standards for IT, which would lead us to think that lack of standards for data management is a gap.

Not so fast.

Standards can help control cost. Standards can help reduce complexity. But, in an age when a data management architecture needs to flex and meet the business need for agility, standards are a barrier. The emphasis on standards is what keeps IT in a mode of constant foundation building, playing the role of deli counter, and focused on cost management.

In contrast, when companies throw off the straight jacket of data management standards the are no longer challenged by the foundation. These organizations are challenged by ceilings. Top performing organizations, those that have had annual growth above 15%, are working to keep the dam open and letting more data in and managing more variety. They are pushing the envelope on the technology that is available.

Think about this. Overall, organizations have made similar data management technology purchases. What has separated top performers from the rest of organizations is by not being constrained. Top performers maximize and master the technology they invest in. They are now better positioned to do more, expand their architecture, and ultimately grow data value. For big data, they have or are getting ready to step out of the sandbox. Other organizations have not seen enough value to invest more. They are in the sand trap.

Standards can help structure decisions and strategy, but they should never be barriers to innovation.

 

*203 Enterprise Architecture Professionals, State of Enterprise Architecture Global Survey Month,2012

**Top performer organization analysis based on data from Forrsights Strategy Spotlight BI And Big Data, Q4 2012

Don't Establish Data Management Standards

Michele Goetz

A recent survey of Enterprise Architects showed a lack of standards for data management.* Best practices has always been about the creation of standards for IT, which would lead us to think that lack of standards for data management is a gap.

Not so fast.

Standards can help control cost. Standards can help reduce complexity. But, in an age when a data management architecture needs to flex and meet the business need for agility, standards are a barrier. The emphasis on standards is what keeps IT in a mode of constant foundation building, playing the role of deli counter, and focused on cost management.

In contrast, when companies throw off the straight jacket of data management standards the are no longer challenged by the foundation. These organizations are challenged by ceilings. Top performing organizations, those that have had annual growth above 15%, are working to keep the dam open and letting more data in and managing more variety. They are pushing the envelope on the technology that is available.

Think about this. Overall, organizations have made similar data management technology purchases. What has separated top performers from the rest of organizations is by not being constrained. Top performers maximize and master the technology they invest in. They are now better positioned to do more, expand their architecture, and ultimately grow data value. For big data, they have or are getting ready to step out of the sandbox. Other organizations have not seen enough value to invest more. They are in the sand trap.

Standards can help structure decisions and strategy, but they should never be barriers to innovation.

 

*203 Enterprise Architecture Professionals, State of Enterprise Architecture Global Survey Month,2012

**Top performer organization analysis based on data from Forrsights Strategy Spotlight BI And Big Data, Q4 2012

Judgement Day for Data Quality

Michele Goetz

Joining in on the spirit of all the 2013 predictions, it seems that we shouldn't leave data quality out of the mix.  Data quality may not be as sexy as big data has been this past year.  The technology is mature and reliable.  The concept easy to understand.  It is also one of the few areas in data management that has a recognized and adopted framework to measure success.  (Read Malcolm Chisholm's blog on data quality dimensions) However, maturity shouldn't create complancency. Data quality still matters, a lot.

Yet, judgement day is here and data quality is at a cross roads.  It's maturity in both technology and practice is steeped in an old way of thinking about and managing data.  Data quality technology is firmly seated in the world of data warehousing and ETL.  While still a significant portion of an enterprise data managment landscape, the adoption and use in business critical applications and processes of in-memory, Hadoop, data virtualization, streams, etc means that more and more data is bypassing the traditional platform.

The options to manage data quality are expanding, but not necessarily in a way that ensures that data can be trusted or complies with data policies.  Where data quality tools have provided value is in the ability to have a workbench to centrally monitor, create and manage data quality processes and rules.  They created sanity where ETL spaghetti created chaos and uncertainty.  Today, this value proposition has diminished as data virtualization, Hadoop processes, and data appliances create and persist new data quality silos.  To this, these data quality silos often do not have the monitoring and measurement to govern data.  In the end, do we have data quality?  Or, are we back where we started from?

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How Bad Are Firms In China At Data Management?

Charlie Dai

Data management is becoming critical as organizations seek to better understand and target their customers, drive out inefficiency, and satisfy government regulations. Despite this, the maturity of data management practices at companies in China is generally poor.

I had an enlightening conversation with my colleague, senior analyst Michele Goetz, who covers all aspects of data management. She told me that in North America and Europe, data management maturity varies widely from company to company; only about 5% have mature practices and a robust data management infrastructure. Most organizations are still struggling to be agile and lack measurement, even if they already have data management platforms in place. Very few of them align adequately with their specific business or information strategy and organizational structure.

If we look at data management maturity in China, I suspect the results are even worse: that fewer than 1% of the companies are mature in terms of integrated strategy, agile execution and continuous performance measurement. Specifically:

  • The practice of data management is still in the early stages. Data management is not only about simply deploying technology like data warehousing or related middleware, but also means putting in place the strategy and architectural practice, including contextual services and metadata pattern modeling, to align with business focus. The current focus of Chinese enterprises for data management is mostly around data warehousing, master data management, and basic support for both end-to-end business processes and composite applications for top management decision-making. It’s still far from leveraging the valuable data in business processes and business analytics.
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The Kiss of Death for Data Strategy

Michele Goetz

The number one question I get from clients regarding their data strategy and data governance is, “How do I create a business case?” 

This question is the kiss of death and here is why.

You created an IT strategy that has placed emphasis on helping to optimize IT data management efforts, lower total cost of ownership and reduce cost, and focused on technical requirements to develop the platform.  There may be a nod toward helping the business by highlighting the improvement in data quality, consistency, and management of access and security in broad vague terms.  The data strategy ended up looking more like an IT plan to execute data management. 

This leaves the business asking, “So what? What is in it for me?”

Rethink your approach and think like the business:

·      Change your data strategy to a business strategy.  Recognize the strategy, objectives, and capabilities the business is looking for related to key initiatives.  Your strategy should create a vision for how data will make these business needs a reality.

·      Stop searching for the business case.  The business case should already exist based on project requests at a line of business and executive level. Use the input to identify a strategy and solution that supports these requests.

·      Avoid “shiny object syndrome”.  As you keep up with emerging technology and trends, keep these new solutions and tools in context.  There are more data integration, database, data governance, and storage options than ever before and one size does not fit all.  Leverage your research to identify the right technology for business capabilities.

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