Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why Manage Vertical Data Lineage

Vertical data lineage refers to the alignment, appropriateness and visibility (in other words the health of the connection) between the physical data models, the technical capability and the business processes and objectives across the entire enterprise architecture stack (see TOGAF). While technology lives solely for the purpose of supporting the business, too often it is out of touch from what is really needed by the business.

There are several reasons for this ailment, including lack of strategic planning (resourcing), subjective decisions over technical capabilities (politics) and poor management (skills). These sound like great areas to work on in order to evolve your business, but let's review how those issues affect the optimal use of information in the business.

When you choose an inappropriate technology, or method, particularly on the data management side of things - you increase you data-business distance. This means that you have weaker control on how your data supports your business. Not only is your business struggling to get the right information to the right people on time, the technology group struggles to try and fit square requirements into triangle-shaped technical solutions. This in turn increases what I call “data wrinkles” (work-a-rounds which are cumbersome, unnecessarily and expensive data flow solutions) which then lead to a natural increase in risk and operational costs. A classic example would be managers deciding to migrate data to a new platform based on limited and/or subjective view on the solution’s capabilities and true ability to answer the business requirements (and in case you didn’t know: migrating to a newer platform does not constitute a business requirements). It is more likely, in these cases that the related issues stem from problem is processes design or gaps in data governance.

In order to ensure your technology is driven to support the information requirements of your business - you need to task someone with precisely this task. This might sound like a trivial statement, but do you actually have someone in your business who has this objective on their performance contract? This role involves understanding the information needs of the business and ensuring that processes are designed using well-selected data models. The models need to be adopted by everyone in the business to minimize data entropy and the data wrinkles, and the technology decisions need to be in-line with the technology, business and data strategy.

If you do not have someone in your business acting as an Enterprise Data Architect - I would strongly recommend you get someone assigned to these duties.

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