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Data manager best practices: Dear Santa, I've been a good data management manager

T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the database, guest columnist Rick Sherman was asking Santa to make the world of data management a better place...

Dear Santa,

I've been a good data management manager all year long. I've been nice to my business users, managers and peers. I've provided thorough materials explaining the value of our company's data management efforts to my managers so they could present it to upper management. I've kept up with the latest data management best practices, technological innovations and industry trends. I've even championed data stewardship and ownership; explained the connection between financial transparency and metadata (which made everyone think I was an alien!); and encouraged the IT staff to document its applications. But sometimes, Santa, I think I am Don Quixote chasing the windmills.

Could you use your holiday magic to help out with this wish list? All I want for Christmas is:

  • Business users that give up Excel and stop building data shadow systems. We try to provide quality data that is consistent, clean and useful. But then the business groups extract the data and create hundreds of spreadsheets. In meetings, everyone argues over who has the right numbers. So much for the single version of the truth!

  • Business users and IT groups who are committed to data stewardship, custodianship and ownership. It would be great to tie in financial transparency and regulatory compliance with data management. Trying to tackle these initiatives without managing data is kind of nuts, don't you think?

  • A single, comprehensive, cost-effective tool to provide business intelligence. "Best-of-breed" sounds terrific, but what both business users and IT really need is the equivalent of Microsoft Office Suite in BI. Nobody, except power users and techies, wants to learn multiple tools. And we can't afford an expensive software package. We have other work to do, such as getting the right data in place for the users to analyze.

  • A comprehensive and cost-effective approach for data integration. ETL, EAI, EII, CDI, MDM, CPM, blah-blah-blah. We need an enterprise approach to integrate structured and unstructured data, along with its metadata, to provide the data needed by the business. We don't need yet another data-integration tool silo. We don't need our ERP, CRM, BI and DW vendors providing their own proprietary data integration tools.

  • A year without pressure to upgrade our software either because of vendors' mergers or vendors' grand schemes to abolish world hunger with their latest major release. How many new and improved products can we handle? We'd like to work on data and data management rather than spending our time, resources and budgets chasing the latest gadget.

  • A year when industry experts and vendors do not dream up yet another round of buzzwords and trends that label data-integration activities as something new and different. I'm tired of vendors and tools that offer the same old stuff in new packages. Thanks to them, we're off creating the next round of data silos. The industry has to stop creating new buzzwords that further data stovepipes across the enterprise. MDM, CDI and the others are all just data integration … one version of the truth for a particular stovepipe.

  • Industry analysts who focus on what's really important. Why can't analysts create a quadrant that factors in what's really valuable to the business, rather than just comparing who has the shiniest and biggest tool? It should include how practical the tools are and how costly they are to implement, including licensing, implementation, maintenance and migration costs.

  • An integration center of excellence for our enterprise. We need a group of people with the expertise to get involved in every data integration project. This strategy would prevent re-inventing the wheel, doing yet another evaluation for the latest technology and getting sold on the latest buzzwords. This group can be a virtual coalition of people. But please do not make it a product-focused group, because then people will think they are biased and not open to what is needed.

  • A simple way to track and manage metadata across the enterprise. We need to provide data audit and data lineage from data creation to information consumption. It would be great to do that without spawning a systems-integration project that grows bigger than creating the DW itself.

  • A "single version of the truth." We need to provide the business with the right data, at the right time and to the right people. Is this asking too much?

PS: I left cookies and milk on the side of the fireplace.

About the author
Rick Sherman is the founder of Athena IT Solutions, a Boston-based consulting firm that provides data warehouse and business intelligence consulting, training and vendor services. In addition to over 20 years in the business, Sherman is also a published author of more than 50 articles, an industry speaker, a DM Review World Class Solution Awards judge and a data management expert at SearchDataManagement.com. Sherman can be found blogging at The Data Doghouse and can be reached at rsherman@athena-solutions.com.


This was last published in December 2005

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