Global Data Strategy Newsletter
Welcome to the Global Data Strategy newsletter. This quarterly newsletter will provide you with updates on data management topics, trends, and insights from around the globe.
Metadata - More Important Than Ever
According to a recent DATAVERSITY survey more than 80% of respondents stated that metadata was as important, if not more important now than in the past. We're not surprised. We've seen a huge increase in demand for metadata management in the past months. You can download a copy of the research paper, Emerging Trends in Metadata Management here, which was co-authored by DATAVERSITY and Global Data Strategy's Donna Burbank. We have produced a number of resources to support the growing interest in Metadata. A few are highlighted below.
Online Metadata Management Training Available
We are pleased to announce our first online training course available as part of the DATAVERSITY Training Center. We've seen a lot of demand for metadata management, and this course provides a good introduction to metadata in a series of 6 online modules that can be done at your own pace from the comfort of your computer. Online modules include:
The course is available for $399 USD, or individual modules can be purchased for $79 each.
- What is Metadata?
- The Business Value of Metadata
- Sources of Metadata
- Metamodels & Metadata Standards
- Metadata Architecture, Integration and Storage
- Metadata Strategy & Implementation
Use discount code "GDS" for a 20% discount. Click here for more information.
News & Insights from the UK
Brexit & the Day to Day Role of the CIO - a Data Management & Governance Perspective
Insights on how Brexit affects data management from Global Data Strategy staff were recently published in Enterprise Management 360 Magazine. An excerpt is provided below and you can read the full article here.
As a company we help our clients manage their data as a strategic asset. Doing this helps them to maximise its value and use it to better handle change and uncertainty. So we strongly endorse Gartner’s view that Brexit has significant implications for data management and governance. Any CIO should address the issues and risks around these areas to prepare for what will inevitably be a lengthy period of doubt and ambiguity.
The only certain thing about Brexit at present is its uncertainty. In the turbulence that it is likely to ferment, it’s already clear that some things will not change whatever the eventual shape of the post-Brexit landscape. In May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force. It will introduce the world’s toughest data protection regime, especially for personal data, and lay down very stringent rules for how it can be collected, stored, processed and used. Given that the UK will probably not invoke the Article 50 notice of its intention to leave the EU until early 2017 at the earliest, and the process will take two years, at that point the UK will still be part of the EU and therefore GDPR will almost certainly apply. Even after Brexit, GDPR will still have a major impact in the UK as its requirements will continue to pertain to all countries outside the EU who hold data on EU citizens. Being able to clearly differentiate UK, EU and other citizens will be an essential part of the challenge, especially if Cloud based hosting & services are involved and data is physically held in different geographies. Any CIO who has not started preparing their organisation for GDPR needs to start doing so now; if these preparations are already underway don’t stop.
The ability to retain and acquire skilled data management professionals is another concern for CIOs, given that Brexit may restrict the ability to recruit from the EU and elsewhere outside the UK. The demand for data management professionals is one of the fastest growing skills requirements in IT today. Vacancies for data scientists, business intelligence & analytics specialists, data quality analysts and data governance professionals already markedly outstrips the available supply, both in the UK and globally. Any CIO must therefore ensure that he or she has a coherent data management skills acquisition and resourcing plan.
In times of Brexit related flux and uncertainty, IT budgets & investment may be constrained and the fall in the value of UK Sterling against the Euro & US Dollar may make imported IT hardware, software & services more expensive for UK IT departments. Ultimately, implementing data management strategies, principles and practices across any organisation is always good business as it helps to reduce costs, increase revenues, support process improvement and IT efficiency, and improve productivity. It also reduces brand and legal & regulatory risks. Bad data creates unnecessary and additional business and IT costs and improving the usability and quality of data is always a sound and beneficial strategy for today and for whatever the future may bring, whether Brexit related or not.
Governance is another key concern of Gartner in light of Brexit, and we would go beyond their prime focus on the need to reconsider legal entity structures to contend that better governance must also extend to the realm of data management. Data governance underpins the building of a coherent data strategy which should align with changing business goals and environments. Given that business strategies generally are likely to be revisited in light of Brexit, the CIO should ensure the organisation has an agile data strategy which can adapt as the business changes. Moreover, quality data can only be achieved when the business recognises its responsibility for controlling and improving its data assets, and takes an active lead for making it happen. The rapidly growing discipline of Data Governance, where individual business people are made accountable for deciding how data should be defined, collected, accessed and exploited, is a must have.
At the end of the day, Brexit will create the need for better data governance, management, and strategy. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” You may not be able to control the ultimate form and impact of Brexit, but you can get control of your data which will put you in a much stronger position to ride the challenges that come your way.
Building Data Castles in the Air
by Nigel Turner, Principal Consultant, EMEA
In the halcyon days of my youth one of my favourite songs was Don McLean’s ‘Castles in the Air’. It highlighted McClean’s emotional dislocation between his desire to lead a tranquil, contented life and having to endure the pressures of the city in which he lived. The phrase ‘Castles in the Air’ refers to plans which have little or no chance of succeeding. I guess he realised his ambition was little more than a forlorn hope at the time he wrote the song.
A perusal of the media in recent weeks demonstrated to me how so much of data exploitation & management also appears focused on building castles in the air. Undoubtedly, data’s potential to revolutionise society and all our lives is an exciting and enticing prospect. I recently watched an excellent BBC documentary on how data can do this. Entitled ‘The Joy of Data’, presented by Dr Hannah Fry, a mathematician at University College, London, it highlighted how data acts as a connecting bridge between the domain of concepts, numbers & abstractions and the real world. Data provides us with the facts and evidence to reduce uncertainty in our lives and society, and can improve our personal and organisational decision making.
In the programme she went on to provide examples of how Big Data in particular was going to do this, exemplified in a use case of the city of Bristol in the UK. Bristol has bold and ambitious plans to become Britain’s first truly digital city. It is starting to collect, store and analyse large quantities of data gathered from sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices to transform how the city cares for its elderly, ill and vulnerable, controls traffic congestion and generally make the city a more pleasant place to live in. Maybe Don McClean should move there.
But this optimistic, utopian, view of data and its potential power have contrasted sharply with several data horror stories that have recently appeared in the media. A study by the ECRI Institute () found that many US health care organisations treat patients incorrectly because they confuse them with other patients with the same or similar names. This happened no less than 7,613 times in the two-year period of the research. Needless to say, the impact of this poor management of data quality can be catastrophic. Closer to home, in the UK the National Health Service (NHS) in England reported that up to 5% of patient data held in General Practitioners lists is inaccurate, obsolete and duplicated.() This also increases the chances of treatment errors and moreover has financial implications as the NHS pays GPS £136 for each registered patient, money it can ill afford to waste as it is under severe financial pressures.
And it’s not only in health that problems with basic data quality have been exposed. The UK energy regulator OFGEM found that some energy companies routinely overcharge customers because of billing errors caused by a muddle over imperial and metric gas meter readings, which measure gas consumption in different units. Some people have been overcharged by as much as 130% for their gas over many years. This is bad news for consumers but also for the suppliers concerned as OFGEM has ordered them to sort out the mess and refund affected clients, a complex and costly undertaking.()
But no article about the perils of poor data quality would be complete without another retail blooper. On its UK website, Hewlett Packard (HP) inadvertently reduced the cost of a high-spec workstation from £2,278.30 to the bargain price of £1.58. () Needless to say lots of sharp eyed bargain hunters ordered them before HP spotted the error and corrected it. Ultimately HP refused to sell them at that price, citing a ‘processing error’, but was left red faced when many would be buyers contacted the UK press to complain. Lots of bad publicity ensued.
So what does all this positive and negative media exposure tell us about the data challenge? To reiterate, there is no doubt that data has the potential power to make a real difference in our lives and the wider world in which we live. But the exciting possibilities of Big Data, IoT, Self-Service Business Intelligence, Data Science, Analytics and so on can only be truly realised if they are anchored on proven, root and branch data management principles and practices. This may not be the most thrilling aspect of data work, any more than the task of laying the foundations of a castle, rather than building its soaring walls and turrets, but without it castles fall down and crumble. It’s hard to deliver the vision of the digital world outlined by Hannah Fry unless you get the basics right, and it’s equally clear that many organisations are still failing to do that.
Focusing on the foundations is key to data success. There are a number of universal but essential practices. First, understand what data is really important to the successful operation of your company, whether it relates to your customers, products, suppliers, sales transactions, invoices et al. You cannot rigorously control all the data you use, so put your focus on the things that really matter. Then make people formally responsible for this data through Data Governance, set data standards, analyse its quality against these standards, and put business and IT processes in place to address the quality problems. Also develop and implement policies to ensure all people in an organisation adhere to good data practices. Always make all these foundational activities an integral part of any Big Data and Analytics project.
Sound & trustworthy data provides the basis on which the digital world and its many artefacts can and must be built. If you don’t want to build castles in the air, but data edifices that endure and last, get the basics right. Don McClean wanted to get back to basics; organisations should look to do the same with their data.
() Wall Street Journal Europe edition 25 September 2016
() UK Times newspaper editorial comment 21 July 2016
() BBC News website 15 August 2016
() BBC Technology website 1 August 2016
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