Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Understanding, Improving & Controlling the Data Landscape - Part 2

Last time around I outlined the core components that make up the Understanding stage. Now that we have ascertained a good level of understanding of the landscape - who is using data, and how it is being consumed, how the data is derived, including source to target mappings, and how it's structured - we can proceed to look at what should be considered during the Improving stage.

The Improving stage consists of a number of core components that when addressed will help towards creating an environment with greater control, confidence and clarity of data.


Often a contentious subject in many organisations, but required under a number of Regulatory Compliance acts, data should be owned to aid accountability and responsibility. People are often hesitant or defensive when asked to take ownership, and one of the reasons for this is due to the fact that data can be touched at many points along the journey from source to target. Would you like to take ownership over a data item, or a report, if you were not directly responsible (or for that matter, had little knowledge) for how the data was derived? During the Understanding phase an insight was provided into how data is derived, and who is consuming this data, which in turn is valuable information when undertaking the task of assigning ownership to data, reports & systems.

Data Quality

Both by profiling the data, and by understanding the source to target mapping of data, potential areas to address will have been exposed. Potential exposure could range from data incorrectly being included/excluded in key reports, data not conforming correctly to pre-defined business rules, or missing/incomplete data items. Working with both technical and business users these areas can be improved to ensure expected delivery of data to agreed and strictly defined standards.

Data Definitions

It may be apparent that different users are using different definitions when talking about the same data item, or the same report. This can be common within organisations where the consumers are from different departments and potentially in different locations. This may be because the data, or report was never assigned definitions, or that a published definition has become outdated due to a business rule change, but this change hasn't been communicated to one of the consuming parties. Consistency and accuracy of definitions will aid improved understanding around the context of data, and ensure that the correct data items, reports and systems are utilised within critical information production.

There are many ways in which to facilitate improvement within the key areas highlighted above, examples of which will be discussed in future posts. Once Improvement has been implemented, the focus is then on ensuring that the improvements remain in place. Methods of ensuring that this happens will be discussed in the next post, looking at the Controlling Stage.