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3 enterprise data management strategy tips

Data is a valuable asset for any company, but IT leaders need to avoid common pitfalls. Experts give advice on how to improve an enterprise data management strategy.

Creating an effective data management strategy isn't easy, and there are lots of ways companies go wrong.

That was one of the takeaways at the panel "Digital Enterprise: Leveraging Data to Improve Every Aspect of the Enterprise," held at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., on May 16.

Company data is akin to the plumbing in a house, said Yao Morin, CTO at JLL Technologies, a Texas-based real estate technology company. Like plumbing, quality data often isn't appreciated until it's not there.

The panelists discussed some common missteps companies make when managing their data, including failing to take full advantage of the information they've gathered and not getting buy-in from business executives.

Here are three takeaways CIOs and other company leaders can use to create and refine an enterprise data strategy.

Know data collection is not data management

Many technologists mistakenly equate data collection with data management.

"[Companies] are collecting data, but they're not taking any action on it," said Girish Hoogar, global head of engineering, cloud and software at Lenovo, a computer technology company headquartered in Beijing.

Data quality is also critical, and panelists highlighted the "garbage in, garbage out" principle of data management.

We need to make [data] accurate, reliable, secure and private.
Yao MorinCTO, JLL Technologies

"A lot of the misunderstanding comes from the oversimplification of what it takes to make data into an asset," Morin said. "We need to make it accurate, reliable, secure and private."

And speed at the expense of quality isn't acceptable.

Today's tech gives IT teams the ability to produce results quicker and process larger quantities of data, but that doesn't negate the need for quality, said John Spens, vice president at Thoughtworks, a software consulting firm based in Chicago.

"Going back to the point of 'garbage in, garbage out,' have we addressed the biggest challenges of understanding what the data is, the curation process [and] knowing what it means?" he said.

Understand data initiatives take time

Useful data results will not happen overnight, and CIOs and other leaders must keep that in mind.

Business leaders must have patience, Hoogar said. Getting to a 90%-95% accuracy point takes time.

Using data to gain a competitive edge is not a one-and-done endeavor.

"Sometimes business [leaders] can have a misunderstanding that it's just a one-time project," Morin said in a TechTarget Editorial interview after the panel session. "You have to continue to invest in it, continue to curate the data, maintain it."

CIOs must sell an enterprise data strategy as a continuously developing and evolving project, she said.

Some company departments might struggle with seeing a data initiative as an ongoing endeavor. In particular, the finance group might not understand that effective data management is a process that requires tending, Spens said. They tend to think that IT will build a repository and platform, and then the data initiative is complete.

Company leaders must be all in on every aspect of a data initiative for it to succeed.

Lack of buy-in from key stakeholders is one of the top reasons for data governance failure, Hoogar said.

Show early wins

One way to stave off business leaders' impatience is to show some results from the data program early on.

"If you don't continue to show the value, it's very easy for [business leaders] to lose interest and lose patience," Morin said.

IT leaders need to create a team that can quickly use data to gain insights or create a dashboard with data that helps employees in some way, she said.

"[That way] the business can continuously see the fruit of building this kind of organization platform," Morin said.

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