How Bad Are Firms In China At Data Management?

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.
  • Data management maturity varies by industry. Similar to North America, the banking and financial services industry is the early adopter and leader of data management initiatives. Regulators like the China Banking Regulation Committee (CBRC) are some of the few national authorities that have stated data management policies, such as data security and retention, driving the industry to leverage data management solutions to fulfill regulators’requirements. However, in many other industries, such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and energy, data is still very much isolated in different heterogeneous systems without comprehensive and effective management.
  • Big data is a big problem that gets even bigger with cloud and mobility. China’s huge population is generating massive amounts of data and corresponding issues for CIOs and enterprise architects at Chinese companies. China Unicom has 30,000 users for its OA system in one province alone, and it even has to migrate to a centralized management platform in the short future. And Taobao.com, the largest online retailer in the Asia Pacific region, needs to process 30 TB of data every day. The explosive growth in data (structured and unstructured) originating on mobile phones or in hybrid clouds will dramatically become the focus of the EA practice in China.

Data management is hard to do well, of course. But it’s essential as markets become more dynamic, competition increases, and regulations evolve.  It’s time for Chinese enterprises to start getting serious about forming and executing a data management strategy.

What do you think? Is your firm struggling with this? Who's leading it, and what lessons should we all learn?