Sunday, July 31, 2011

#MITIQ: Report from MIT IQIS: The Chief Data Officer

Earlier this month I spent a week at the 2011 MIT Information Quality Industry Symposium. 

IQ is a young discipline, and conventional wisdom has not yet congealed into a widely accepted set of best practices.  For example, although most of the gathered experts agreed that an IQ program requires someone in the Chief Data Officer role, the urgency—or the perceived urgency—of the need can vary:

  • If data is part of your service (e.g., your service is a thoroughbred racetrack), you absolutely need a CDO.
  • If data supports your service (e.g., a brokerage), the need for a CDO is real, but some myopic folks might not realize this.
  • If data is not a part of your product, but describes your operations, the need for a CDO is slightly less urgent.  (Even here, the merits of data quality cannot be understated, especially for data that supports regulatory reporting.)

Furthermore, there were different—widely different—organizational approaches: 

  • CDO should report to the CIO
  • CDO should not report to the CIO, but to someone less focused on technology, such as the COO.

Other topics yielded equally varied opinions:

  • A good way to launch a data quality / information quality program is to concentrate on saving money.
  • Cost should not be the primary motivator; understanding the business should be.  The goal is not reducing cost, but establishing discipline (e.g., understanding risks and efficiencies in operation…)

And while we’re talking about money, here’s another topic whose discussion showed widely varying opinions:

  • One function of the CDO is to establish a reliable funding stream for the DQ / IQ program.
  • No.  Don’t rely on a funding stream and don’t fall into the funding-stream mentality, because funding streams dry up when personnel changes.  It is too difficult to defend a budget line item called “Data Quality.”  You must embed data quality into your core business, so that DQ is barely distinguishable from your core business operations.

The opinions referred to here are not mine.  I’m just reporting on the vibrancy of the discussions at this year’s MIT IQIS conference.  Vibrant discussion is a good sign, because DQ / IQ programs will be a part of our future and we need to figure out what that means.

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