Blogger: Lyn Robison
Imagine a businessperson saying, “I want to see all of the information that exists (and that I am authorized to see) in all of our company’s systems about this particular customer. That includes transactions, contracts, correspondence, payments, shipments, complaints, history, everything.”
As an enterprise IT person, what would be your reaction?
1. “That’s impossible. I mean, good luck. You are naïve to think that diverse information can be meaningfully integrated from that many disparate information systems. It would take forever to hard code the logic to translate all of that information from its original context into the context that you are requesting. ”
2. “That’s not needed. No one ever asks for that. There are no business scenarios where finding all of the existent information on a particular topic would ever be needed. And besides, the purpose of IT systems is to automate and optimize business processes. IT systems do not ever need to provide impromptu access to information.”
3. “That’s what data warehouses and BI apps are for. We’ll just create a data warehouse and BI application for you. Of course, that will only give you access to the structured data. And, if you want to ask a follow-up question on related topic, we will probably have to create yet another data warehouse and BI application for you. BTW, how much money can you put into this and how long can you wait?”
4. “Can do. You can see what every system in the enterprise has on each customer by visiting our MODS registry with your browser or favorite Office application. The source system for each piece of data will be clearly shown so that you can see the context that the data is coming from. The contact info for the business data stewards is included with each piece of information, so you can get answers to any questions you have about the meaning of the data from each system.”
Now imagine that the businessperson says, “How reliable is this information?” What would be your reaction?
1. “I am sure it’s good enough. It’s probably not 100% reliable, but it’s better than nothing, right?”
2. “Couldn’t tell ya. The data might be wrong, but that’s not really my problem. I only deliver the technology and manage the systems.”
3. “It’s not black and white. The data is not reliable or unreliable. It’s somewhere between completely erroneous and totally true.”
4. “Included with the information from the MODS registry is a link to the information quality metrics for the data from each system. This will give you measures of the reliability of the data from the businesspeople who know it best, and will also give you the lineage of the data from each system.”
What answers would the businessperson prefer to hear from you? Based on my own experience, the answer 4s are going to be the preferred answers.
Many may think that the answer 4s would be impossible, or impossibly expensive to deliver. I respectfully disagree. The technology to do this has existed for several years. The data is already lying around the enterprise. MODS projects are inexpensive. Information quality metrics are easy to institute. And data stewardship and governance are not onerous to implement, and with the demands of regulation and compliance, are going to be essential anyway. Do those things and you will be able to give answer 4 to both questions, which are answers that the businesspeople will find quite satisfactory.
It is interesting to note that these “find all the info on customer X” questions get asked and answered every day. This is why CEOs and EVPs have executive assistants (otherwise known as poor go-fers). The CEO says, “I have a big meeting with customer X in 3 days and I need to be armed with all our interactions with them.” With that, the go-fer whips open the BI dashboard, does a query for the systems he or she can get at, calls Operations and has them do a scan of archived e-mails from the past 6 months, reads and summarizes those, logs on to every search system the company has, and does a query for customer X. After three 12-hour days, the go-fer hands the CEO a printed out Word document with everything neatly formatted. So it isn’t so much that the question can’t be answered, it’s that the question could be answered in a much faster and higher quality way if the IT systems were changed.
In short, assuming a company has the labor to hand-stitch the information together, I’m not sure high level management recognizes this as a problem. Their questions get asked and answered. The issue is that only CEOs and EVPs can ask these questions; everyone else is out of luck. A MODS registry makes the information readily avialable to everyone who is authorized to access it.
Ultimately, the MODS registry could be made transparent to businesspeople. The businessperson could use a simple query or search tool to submit a request for complete customer information. That request could automatically route (e.g., via a data services platform) to the MODS registry server. The MODS registry system could resolve the query or search by accessing registry data and business logic. The logic would resolve duplicative, inconsistent, and conflicting customer information from multiple sources. The resultant solution to the query (i.e., a complete view of a customer) could appear in a window on the businessperson’s access device regardless of its location (i.e., assuming appropriate access and security controls). You can learn more about MODS by clicking here.