Data capability will impact IT strategy in 2011

In 2011, culpa, the Latin word for guilt, will impact the IT market in the form of data culpability.

February 4, 2011

Culpa – the Latin word for guilt, or fault. It translates to phrases such as mea culpa – my fault – culpable homicide, where someone has killed someone through a fault, if not through deliberate intent, and to culpability, where someone is held accountable for their actions.

And, in 2011, it will impact the IT market in the form of data culpability. We all know the concepts of data mapping, data integrity, data quality, master data management, data custodians, data stewardship and more.

But now we have data culpability, where someone has ultimate authority, accountability and ownership of data. This means a line of auditability that stretches from the boardroom to data capture, and ensures the entire organisation is alive to the importance of data.

This cannot be over-stated. The term “data” goes back to the Latin term for something which is a given … a trusted, accepted representation of an artefact.

This definition is important. We must be able to accept as a given that the representation of an artefact is sound. So, for instance, we know that we have 1 000 cars in a fleet, and the data regarding each car is accurate, which then rolls out to the balance sheet. We accept that customer names are accurate, and unique, and that they have the integrity we would like to associate with unique assets such as customers, automobiles, buildings, or IT assets.

This, to date, has been the data world, one which is tangible, three-dimensional, tactile, and typically represents real-world artefacts.

Enter the worlds of cloud computing, social media SMF mobile devices and potential chaos. These are of vital importance as they are far from the centre of normal computing, data capture, data acquisition, data management and data manipulation.

New world carries liability

In fact, they are so far from the centre that they can be said to be a new world. But they carry liability – and someone must be held culpable for them.

The rule of IT is that the moment something spins away from the centre, control becomes harder. Client/server was harder to manage than host-based computing, and cloud computing is even harder, and social media and mobile devices must surely be the hardest of all to manage.

The problem is, organisations must now be held accountable (culpable) for everything that occurs around them and in their name. They must also be in a position to acquire data wherever it impacts the organisation, to know who is saying what, what marketing opportunities exist to those who are communicating with and about the organisation, who has expressed interest in a product, to analyse Web traffic in a meaningful manner, and that’s only the beginning.

Organisations need to know what who is posting what, which is a business process issue, but process drives data, and data drives culpability, as noted. They also need to manage the responses, and the business opportunities that arise from those.

And none of this deals with the issue of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of personal devices in use in the broader enterprise, each of which contains both critical company data and marketing opportunities.

Mobile devices are lost, stolen, misplaced or corrupted every day. It is in the nature of mobile devices – notebooks, sub-notebooks, netbooks, smartphones, iPhones, iPads, tablets – that data on these is all but impossible to control, police, or manipulate. But someone must be accountable.

It needs to be understood at the most fundamental level that there is a mountain of data outside the firewall that needs to be brought under control.

This explosion of data has led to a new phrase: the digital universe. The digital universe has expanded beyond anyone’s ken or anticipation, but it needs to be brought under control from a corporate data governance perspective. Someone has to be held culpable, and this means an increased role for the data steward, with ultimate accountability residing with the board.

In addition, marketing needs to work with the data governance folk to ensure that sales opportunities are not lost. With responsibility lies opportunity, but this cannot be exploited unless the organisation has a cohesive and uncontested, single view of the truth.

This means bringing the new digital universe under control, and establishing a clear line of data culpability.