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Data Management in Perspective: People & Processes - Oz du Soleil

Two must-read articles as we start managing our data in 2015:

Please read those articles. For this blogpost, these are the juiciest, most relevant excerpts from each article:

Jordan Goldmeier, What End of Year Data Predictions Mean

” technology solutions can’t solve underlying friction. (Indeed, companies often trumpet how much money they’ve invested rather than trumpet how much value they’ve actually realized!)”


maybe 2015 will be the year businesses stop pretending they can solve their data problems without addressing underlying friction between departments.

Joe Shepley, Technology Can’t Ever Solve the Information Management Problem

… despite all the great things happening in information management, it seems like most firms are as bad at managing information as they’ve ever been — and in some ways worse…

The end result being ever more information being not managed properly in an ever-expanded set of tools, to the detriment of the entire organization.


“Poor information management stems from poor business processes, exacerbated by poor technology to be sure, but not caused (or solved) by it.”

Joe and Jordan offer sober reminders of the limitations of technology. They invite us to take a hard look at the totality of managing data. Jordan points to friction between departments. Joe says that poor processes are really at the root of bad data-related situations and decisions.

Amen! We get to have an honest discussion about why solutions fail. Sometimes the solutions are bad. However,  tools/technology are just part of making this world run right on good data. The other parts are People and Processes. And no business is immune. It could be

dataoverload

  • The 1-person operation that spends $500 on a solution and never gets it configured
  • The big company that spends $1M on a solution that works great for one department and is a horror for another department
  • Any company with at least 2 people, and one person has created a data fiefdom, slowing down processes and disempowering others

More money for better tools isn’t the answer in those situations.

PEOPLE, PROCESSES & TOOLS

As I type this I feel like I’m saying something trivial and obvious. However, I see it time and time again: over-reliance on tools and not enough about the processes and the people in the processes.

What goes wrong? Why does Joe say that in spite of what’s available, companies aren’t any better at managing data? Here’s what I’ve seen.

Not everyone is trained for handling data, and that often includes the people who make the decision to write the check for a data management solution. What they tend to lack is a sense for distinguishing between:

  • tool/tech problems
  • process problems and
  • personnel/skill problems

Not everyone is trained for handling data, and many actually hate working with data. They want the color-by-numbers data management instructions; or they’re scared of breaking something or being wrong.

There is no formal process. Information has to be fed into a solution in order to get reports and insight. The solution has to be configured, corrected and maintained. For a new solution to be effective we need reliable people to do the feeding, configuring, correcting and maintaining.

We need empowered people who take ownership, and understand the consequences of workarounds, crap data, and putting things off until “one day.”

idea machine

A tool is a tool. The people and processes dictate the effectiveness.

CONCLUSION: PEOPLE, PROCESSES & “GOOD ENOUGH” TOOLS

Let’s think. Some how humanity got to today without fancy data management tools.

Music, indoor plumbing, wars, gambling, vaccinations, skyscrapers, census records, embezzlement, hospitals, and intercontinental travel all have data components and they existed before computers and $199/month software services. But what was required for their existence was

  • “good enough” tools for managing the data,
  • deliberate processes with
  • the right people in the right places.

We’ve got to do more to identify, train and empower the right people who can support the right processes.

REMINDER: Please check out these articles

Information Overload image courtesy of: JasonCasteel at DeviantArt
Idea Machine image courtesy of koratmember at freedigitalphotos.net