Blogger: Lyn Robison
The traditional view is that enterprise IT manages systems. The data is the business’s concern. The only thing that IT people do with data is define the structure of data in databases, which means that the only work IT people do with data is to design the shape of the buckets that the businesspeople pour business data into.
Smart enterprises are realizing that someone needs to manage the data within these systems: not merely the schema, but the data itself (the rows, not just the columns). But who does that? My Burton Group colleague Noreen Kendle asks a great question in her previous blog post: Is Data Management an IT Function?
Every large enterprise needs a data management organization (DMO) that is populated with people who are techie enough to manage data, yet not so nerdy that they refuse to sully their hands by touching data. The DMO must include a healthy mix of tech-savvy businesspeople along with techie-but-open-minded IT people. Noreen’s question is whether that DMO should report to the business leadership or to IT leadership.
Technology is becoming a commodity. IT is being consumerized and commoditized, and enterprise IT departments are finding themselves competing against providers of IT externalization (outsourcing, SaaS, cloud computing, etc.). Those IT departments whose bread and butter is managing and implementing technology will sooner or later find that they are peddling artisan wares in a highly competitive commodity market. The enterprise IT department’s custom, handcrafted IT systems will be expensive and of poor quality in comparison to the mass-produced information technology that businesspeople well be able to buy for a few shekels from electronics retailers and cloud computing providers.
So, IMHO, the answer to the question of whether the DMO should report to the business leadership or to IT leadership depends on whether or not the IT leadership has a clue. If they have no clue, IOW if the IT leadership believes that IT's primary job is to manage technology and systems, then the DMO should report to the business leadership. If the DMO is part of the business, when IT commoditization and IT externalization eventually banish the IT department’s technophiles from the enterprise, the DMO won’t be banished along with them. The DMO will continue to function within the business, no matter what happens to the nerds in IT.
If the IT leadership does have a clue, if the enterprise has a CIO who realizes that they are a CIO instead of a CTO, then the DMO could report to IT leadership and be effective in its mission of managing the enterprise’s data. The DMO will include people who manage structured data, documents, content, information security, identity data, and the delivery of useful business information to businesspeople, and that DMO will become the enterprise IT department. From what I can see, the techies in the IT department will by and large have go to work for cloud providers, or will be obliged to find new careers.
The bottom line is that enterprises will no longer be able to afford enterprise IT’s artisan technology and systems when the off-the-shelf, mass-produced technology and systems begin to offer cheaper and more effective alternatives. If the enterprise IT department survives at all, its primary task will be data management, because the technology will be an outsourced commodity. So, as a technophile myself, I can say that it’s been fun to tinker with technology, but now the time is right for enterprise IT people to learn to manage data.