Who Owns the Data in Your Organization?

This week’s blog on data was again written by my colleague Joseph Yacura.  You’re on a roll Joe!

Traditionally managers have looked at business capability assessment by focusing on three (3) general areas. Those areas of focus have been people, process and technology. While this model has served us well in the past it is no longer sufficient.

We have been omitting a critical component:  “Data”. “Data” has always been indirectly important, but it has now reached a hyper level of critical importance as organizations are moving towards autonomous data driven decision making (DDDM) environments. “Data” has become so critical that it now has been elevated to the fourth critical component in assessing an organizations ability to compete and survive in a rapidly changing global business environments.

An age-old challenge involves identifying who owns “Data” in an organization. (This subject was discuss in an article published by “Information Management” https://www.information-management.com/opinion/making-business-needs-drive-the-data-ownership-model) Some companies will respond by saying the Information Technology (IT) function owns “Data”. But IT provides the means of collecting, storing, processing and protecting “Data”. IT is not the owner of “Data”. The surrogate owners of “Data” are in some cases the original creators of the “Data” and/or the end users of the data. Even this description of the “Data” owners is insufficient. When we ask additional questions such as who identifies the sources of the “Data”, who determines access to the “Data”, who determines if the “Data” has advanced beyond its useful life, as well as what is the useful life of the “Data”, it becomes more and more difficult  had to identify the true owner of ”Data” in most organizations.

This lack of clear ownership presents a current challenge to most organizations regardless of their size, maturity and/or industry.  The solution to this issue is the creation of an enterprise wide “Data” governance organization. This organization, if not sufficient on its own, can provide guidance and communication and coordination amongst sub data governance organizations if required in larger organizations.

The idea of “Data” as an asset is still in various stages of development. (The CPA profession is starting to discuss this topic of “Data” as an asset https://www.cpajournal.com/2019/06/24/managing-data-as-an-asset/). Companies do not place “Data” as an asset on a balance sheet while in some cases we spend hundreds of millions of dollars in collecting, storing, cleaning and organizing “Data”. “Data” has several sources and can be developed internally, provided by suppliers or purchased by third parties. Most companies do not have conventional quality control procedures and/or acceptance criteria for most of the “Data” that we accept and use in conducting business.

It is imperative that we start to view and treat “Data” as the fourth area (component) of our business assessment model and treat “Data” as a valuable asset.

As a valuable asset, consistent and well thought out procedures and processes must be implemented regarding data and it’s use.