IT controls all things data: Falser than it’s ever been….

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loginHaving spent a good part of my career “owning” the data hub in IT for analytics solutions, I think I can say, the myth that IT controls all things data has become less and less true through the years – and eventually it will be completely false.  Or maybe it should be already.

I remember the days (yes, I have been around for quite some time) when IT controlled all the data, acquired it, stored it, and fed it into reports.  But, that paradigm is very old school and can’t possibly exist in today’s corporate world. Now, data comes from everywhere – inside of the company systems as well as far-fetched outside of the company environments – and it is getting more complex with more need for business context to make sense out of the story that the data tells.

The “IT controls all things data” myth is the first of four myths covered in a new webcast series that busts four analytics myths. The series features SAS CIO Keith Collins and James Dallas, former CIO of Medtronic. It also features interview clips from IT peers in multiple industries. I’ll be watching each of the four videos and posting my thoughts here based on my experience as an IT leader in both manufacturing (CPG) and telecom companies.

I agree with James Dallas on the perspective that IT leaders are moving – and need to keep moving – from a command and control position to one of oversight and connectivity.  Since I often need analogies to help me understand complicated landscapes, I like to compare the scenario of “owning” or “controlling” data in IT to the ownership of a condo.

My first home in the 1990s was one that was called a “fee simple condominium,” meaning  I owned everything from the paint on the walls in.  All the owners collectively owned and controlled everything from the paint out – ensuring that property value was sustained – or better yet, increased – through the joint efforts of the whole (with the help of governing officials).

With this simple analogy, I see IT as filling the property managers’ and homeowner associations’ roles in the ownership and control of data that enables the businesses in today’s corporate analytic environments. Lines of business are like the homeowners in the condo community, customizing how the general services and assets are used in their own dwelling to get the most from their investment.

Both of these are needed to make the home – or the data – more valuable, and to keep up with the times in its maintenance.  IT does this for data: managing the flow of data from the outside to the business owners (think water, energy in the condo). Each business unit uses the data in different ways to tell the story of their strategies (think of how condo owners decorate and manage the interior of their homes using the resources from outside their own walls).

In this webinar, Racy Morgan, Director of Strategy of Analytics, IHG, talks about “IT cross-silo responsibility,” and mentions the oversight functions  of data acquisition, quality, and integration.  To extend the multi-unit homeowner scenario, IT needs to provide oversight of incoming data, building and using best practices and ensuring that there is compliance and monitoring (is the energy company providing the right voltages?). IT should provide the tools that enable good quality and ease of use of data (is the drinking water safe and does it come into the house without leaks or faults?). IT owns security rules on the data, so that it is only shared when how it should be (is the parameter of the neighborhood safe and is access and neighborhood traffic controlled?). Finally, IT is responsible for the integration of disparate sources (the collective approach maintenance and consistence for exterior home maintenance to keep to homeowner standards and make the best use of public facilities).

The key word that resounded to me throughout this discussion is collaboration.  It is critical for the IT leader to collaborate fairly across all lines of business that use data for decision making and strategy, just like the condo association owns the responsibility of keeping the neighborhood safe and sound by holding meetings, voting for board officials, and communicating freely in both directions.  This allows the line of business to operate swiftly and nimbly when leveraging the environment best in the way that makes sense for them.

As Dallas states, the role of IT is to drive other parts of the business to success. In a multi-unit community, no homeowner can do it alone, and everyone wants their own say in how use the facilities in their own way. So, if managing data as a corporate asset is like maintaining a living community, it does take a village. And the villagers, both the IT and the business leaders, need to own the responsibility of their roles for a happy, cooperative life.

Watch the full Webcast to learn more from Dallas, Collins and fellow IT pros.

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About Author

Renee Nocker

For SAS, Renee helps the sales and marketing divisions deliver valuable analytics and BI strategies and solutions to IT leaders. Prior to this position, Renée worked in the IT field for more than two decades, where she focused on business analytics, data management and business intelligence. She has played key roles in change management relating to business analytics and overall IT strategy in the consumer product, manufacturing, insurance and telecommunications industries.

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