As data demands speed up, information management tools pave road ahead

Nicole Laskowski, News Editor

Businesses tend to consider information management a high priority. But new research suggests that, while organizations have matured in this area, plenty still struggle with it.

The Evolution of Information Management by Ventana Research in San Ramon, Calif., found that fewer than 50% of organizations the firm surveyed have embarked on new initiatives for data governance, data virtualization or master data management in the last two years. While the report indicates growth since the last time Ventana surveyed the topic in 2006, the  lead author of the report characterized this finding as “inertia.”  

“Sometimes we assume information management is a well-oiled discipline by chief information officers,” said Mark Smith, CEO and executive vice president of research for Ventana. “And, by default, we might also think that an information officer should have a good information management program. The reality is they don’t.”

An assumption like that can be problematic, especially today, as businesses juggle different types of data coming from multiple sources at a faster rate. But organizations that undertake new information management initiatives will be able to codify and organize their data environments, all while building trust that the data is dependable.

Key findings
One of the major takeaways from Smith’s research is that the success of information management hinges on the relationship between the line of business and IT.

More on information management tools

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“If the IT folks don’t get information management to establish a direction, which reduces the data needs from the business side, you’re kind of putting a data infrastructure in place for good sakes but not necessarily helping address the data needs of the business,” he said.

Three-fourths of the 228 respondents -- solicited through email blasts, social media invitations and by media and vendor sponsors -- indicated the line of business and IT work well or very well together. Smith said the finding shows improvements when compared with research from even a year ago, and he stressed the importance of that relationship, which he considers to be at the foundation of a good information management strategy.

Also, on a positive note, Smith said there has been a steady progression of companies using a series of technologies, which include data integration, master data management and data virtualization.

“For companies that have those technologies in place, we found a correlation to higher levels of satisfaction in information management practice,” Smith said.

While most participants (65%) indicated they trust or totally trust the data they use on a regular basis, the finding climbs to more than 75% for participants who have also undergone a data quality or master data management initiative. The research finds master data management, data governance or data virtualization to have a similar impact on data integration.

“We’re incrementally making some good steps forward, and that’s an important thing,” Smith said.

Improvements still needed
While the research identified several positive trends, it also suggests there’s more work to be done. The research identified staffing, budget and skills as hurdles for information management projects. In fact a larger percentage of respondents reported staffing (68%) and budget (63%) to be as big or bigger barriers than technological challenges such as data spread across too many applications and systems (64%), and insufficient tools (57%).

“We are putting new technology into the organization,” Smith said. “So insufficient training and skills are still an obstacle.”

Businesses also report dealing with multiple versions of the truth, managing data from different sources and data reliability. Plus, participants are struggling with unstructured data, which they indicated is growing at a faster rate than structured data.

In other words, participants reported data growing in variety, velocity and volume -- otherwise known as “big data” -- to be an information management hardship. While big data may be in the midst of a vendor marketing push, it’s also an aspect of information management that needs to be addressed, Smith said.

“Big data has eliminated a lot of information management conversations,” he said. “And, if not careful, organizations could tune themselves to just a portion of information management to meet the big and sometimes noisiest of projects.”

Unstructured data, for example, could cause businesses to invest in new technology to manage and utilize the content, Smith said, but that information also needs to be managed and integrated for it to be useful. Having a good information management practice in place will provide the foundation for something like Hadoop to be built on top of it, Smith said.

In fact, embarking on information management initiatives solve one of the report’s most ironic findings: While more than three-fourths of participants indicated that it was necessary to improve their information management policies, fewer than half of them saw obstacles like multiple versions of the truth as having such a detrimental effect that it needed to be addressed in the next 12 months, according to the report.

“CIOs [chief information officers] have got to take a larger leadership role and need to say information management is just as important as business applications,” Smith said. “Because, in essence, the information is what drives business.”

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