Master Data Governance Never Takes a Holiday

Chapel on Hill, Pylos, Greeceby Christine Denney

Yes, I did it.  I took a vacation / holiday / sabbatical (insert your favorite term here).  And this was not just a day or two; rather, this was two and a half glorious weeks…time to relax, recharge, and think about something other than master data for a while.  Sounds good, right?

Before you think that I went on some extravagant cruise, let me set the stage.  We stayed close to home and went to… (drumroll, please)… the State Fair!  It seemed like a logical place to escape from the data management world for a while.  Other than its iPhone app, the State Fair seemed about as far from IT as can be.  And it was, until the introduction of the great popcorn ball.

From across the room, I saw the words “World’s Largest Popcorn Ball” and it was all over.  It was an interesting claim – “world’s largest” — but it was also troubling.  Who determines what constitutes the “world’s largest” of something?  Is there a registry somewhere that tracks these things?  How are the data managed?  What governing body makes sure that the specifications are accurate and that quality data are collected?  Is that group even the right set of individuals to make that kind of decision?  What authority do they have?  What are their qualifications?  I was suddenly envisioning myself in a conference room, facilitating a session on defining the attributes of a popcorn ball and searching for qualified data stewards.  What was happening?  I could feel myself being pulled back into the MDM world.  Apparently, you can take some people away from the office, but not away from master data.

The questions running through my head were not unlike those we ask every day in the Master Data Management world.  When we set up governance for data, do we pick people who “have time” or do we look for individuals with the expertise, authority, and passion to govern the data well?  Do these individuals truly know the rules that need to be in place and have the authority to enforce them?  I think the answers to these questions would often disappoint us.  Without governance, how do we build trust in the data?  But it does not stop there. The questions about governance and trustworthiness of data extend beyond our own walls, into the community at large.

As more standards and standards organizations emerge, we need to understand the role they play in our governance strategies.  How should we leverage standards bodies in the governance process?  How do we judge whether they are “good”?  If multiple standards groups purport to govern the same type of data, how do you select the best one?  How do we reconcile global standards and local standards?  It is important that governance organizations consider those questions and provide guidance.

And all of that leads us back to the popcorn ball issue….  Until I know more about these popcorn governance people (who I doubt even exist), understand their data quality and master data practices, and know their world-wide influence, I’ll just call it the “alleged” world’s largest popcorn ball – an impressive feat, but not data quality verified.

I will leave you with a parting thought…  imagine it is 2:00am; do you know who is governing your master data?

NOTE: All opinions in this blog are those of the author and not her employer. 

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