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DAMA keynote: Five data management trends

Jill Dyche, keynote speaker at the annual DAMA conference, called this "the decade of the data steward" and outlined five trends changing the industry.

BOSTON -- Good, but busy, times lie ahead for data management professionals, if the keynote speech at this year's Data Management Association (DAMA) International Symposium is any indication.

It's "the decade of the data steward," according to Jill Dyche, the keynote speaker and partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Companies "can't ignore data" anymore, she said. There are more varied types of data, exponential increases in volumes and new business process requirements. Compounding the problems are data management skills shortages and changes in technology. 

"Data management, data integration and data quality are bigger than your data warehouse now. The data warehouse and business intelligence environments were fantastic test beds for our nascent data management skills. But data issues are bigger than the data warehouse," Dyche said. "They're transcending reporting, and we have to get our arms around data -- both for analytics and operational purposes as well."

With that, she outlined five trends currently shaping the data management discipline for a crowd of more than 800 attendees at her Tuesday morning address.

  • "Data as a service" emerges. The rise of service-oriented architecture (SOA) offers endless opportunities for "data people," Dyche said. Applications aren't the only component that should be service-enabled, she said. Data can be a shareable service, available to any application that can call a Web service. SOA offers the potential to better integrate data for operational purposes so that there doesn't need to be point-to-point intercommunication between heterogeneous applications, she said.
  • Master data management (MDM) is here to stay. MDM is a confusing topic right now, Dyche acknowledged, with many definitions. She described it as "the set of methods and practices to ensure the accuracy, meaning and quality of a company's reference data within, and across, subject areas and systems." It's bigger than just the enabling technologies, she said. More than simply a "project," MDM also represents the ongoing processes required for "sustained integration" of operational data, often in real time.
  • Business rules are back. Though the concept has been around for 20 years, it's easier that ever to implement and deploy business rules, Dyche said. New technologies, such as business rule management engines, and SOAs mean that companies can implement business rules as a service. Now, organizations can implement business rules in a "once and done" way, rather than embedding them in individual applications. This helps support business activities such as regulatory compliance with SOX and HIPAA or reporting.
  • Web 2.0 is coming. New Web-based technologies, such as wikis, blogs, tagging and social bookmarking, are increasing collaboration among users and developers, Dyche said. Data managers should also be aware of new search technologies, which are improving access and usage of information. Additionally, these new technologies rely on sound metadata, Dyche noted, which has long gone unappreciated outside the data management discipline.
  • Data governance is ready for prime time. Attendees should carefully consider their organization's processes for policy making and decision making around enterprise data as an asset, Dyche said. It's important to design data governance programs specifically for an organization's culture and current processes. There's no "cookie-cutter" template. Data governance is a challenging discipline, she acknowledged. But as data volumes and requirements increase, governance will be essential, she said.

Making this all happen will require hard work and new skill sets, Dyche said. The role of data management professionals is changing as systems and businesses become more and more complex. But some higher-ups may still need convincing.

"Management still sees data as a byproduct of the applications we build, and not as an asset in its own right. But executives are starting to hear that data management is its own discipline," Dyche said.

Data managers can help facilitate organizational change, she said. Leverage different skills within your organization. Look into search technologies that will help end users make better use of existing information and BI systems. Inventory business strategies that are untenable due to lack of synchronized data, she said, and use those to start data management conversations. Consider existing customer data integration or MDM projects as excuses to launch data governance programs.

"Be ready to claim a bigger slice of the pie," she concluded. "We really believe that this is the decade of the data steward. We need that bridge between the business and our systems in order to make data the asset that it was meant to be. And it's really up to all of you to start doing that."

Attendees agreed with many of Dyche's assertions, despite one person overheard saying that MDM is nothing new, now a common debate among professionals. Others were inspired.

"I thought [the keynote] was right on. She hit on some things that everyone here was interested in," Debbie Oglesby, IT project lead at Houston-based United Space Alliance, said.

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