Saturday, November 30, 2013

Do we under-stand-n-dice?

Data interoperability is rooted in understandability and lineage, which is founded on a common agreed language, or in other words - in standards. Now, unfortunately while standards need a technical specification, this is only the beginning. Standards remain the shadows of our data if not implemented and governed properly.

Let's go down to basics. Take the ISO 8601 for example (most commonly known as yyyy-mm-dd date format). While this is an excellent standard (in my humble opinion), it shadows our data since it is only partially adopted globally. Of course in some scopes it is fully adopted, and in others it seems to be none-existent. This type of standard reaches every aspect of our lives, and will take time to be adopted world-wide. The point is that it is still to resolve all our problems today relating to date representation.

There is a spectrum of data standards adoption, and this stems from the implicit cost and benefit to the business. Why adopt a standard if it will cost too much to implement? This is probably the single, biggest question people ask when it comes to standards. We do not, and should not standardize just because it sounds like the right thing, but we should also not discount the potential benefits. We need to carefully evaluate the strategic impact of this type of governance. There is an ongoing cost for having standards and there are risks and occurrences of cost relating to the lack of standardization.

While we do standardize a lot, I think we tend to standardize our standardization. We do it too broadly and hence at time apply standards which are too shallow, and at times we over-standardizing others. In other words - we can and should - optimize this practice.

Supporting the business is all about managing risk and resources. Hence the practice of standardizing should be driven out of an understanding the business impact of adoption (or not adopting) standards. This should be quantified in terms of business relevant risk and of course - money.

So don't let your business play with the under-standardizing dice. Help them choose which standards to evolve, and which ones to let go. This, I think, should be the standard approach. Don't you?

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