Order out of chaos

It is now a familiar credo among key business decision-makers: data – its capture, analysis and dissemination – plays a critical role within any functioning, let alone flourishing, business. But while this may be the case at more than two-thirds

of the organisations recently surveyed by Information Age, the situation has yet to solidify into hard and fast business practices at a significant proportion of organisations. Indeed, if there was one underlying message in the responses of the 279 IT decision-makers polled, it is that many organisations remain ill-equipped – in terms of their technology, processes and culture – to manage their data as a critical asset.

None of which is to suggest, however, that the situation is dire – far from it in fact. A surprisingly high proportion of organisations already operate what could be termed a ‘data governance’ strategy. What’s more, for those organisations pursuing such a policy, their efforts appear to be paying off: 42%, for example, say they have achieved the – by no means small – feat of creating an enterprise-wide view of data, and one that is widely trusted internally.

More important for the future sustainability of the organisation, both of these aspects are filtering into the critical areas of compliance and security: a staggering 70% of respondents to the survey can confidently say that their core corporate data is securely managed, a finding that puts paid to the suggestion – as evinced by the data-leakage panic seen in UK headlines during the latter half of 2007 – that the vast majority of companies have systemic data security problems. This figure is also more than matched by the 77% who are confident that the way in which their organisation accounts for and manages data enables it to fulfil its compliance obligations.

To this extent, the research suggests that rather than an erosion of data control, many organisations are getting their house in order, with many positive examples of data governance already in action. For others, though, there is still a long way to go. In all, around a third of organisations are languishing in a state of data disarray, having no enterprise-wide view of data; unsure of whether their data structures allow them to fulfil their compliance obligations; and lacking adequate safety controls over that data. Indeed, 75% of IT decision-makers agreed that mismanagement of data could have significant negative financial implications for their organisation.

For organisations still struggling with major data management challenges, the research has some insights on where the stumbling blocks might lie and, in turn, how they might be avoided. In particular, it seems clear that many of the obstacles to driving a data governance strategy forward are largely cultural, stemming from both the upper echelons of the organisation and the rank and file.

In 30% of cases, for example, ‘obtaining organisational buy-in’ proved the chief challenge, a problem that seems to stem from a general lack of ‘ownership awareness’. Indeed, it seems the data governance evangelists are chiefly those in middle management, who are flanked by the disinterested or the unenlightened. Nearly 50% of respondents feel that it would take nothing short of a corporate shakeup – such as a legislative infringement investigation – before senior management accept that corporate and commercial data must be actively governed.

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