Data Ownership within an Organization

data ownership in an organizationRecently, I was having a conversation with an IT VP about data management, data access, reporting and analytical approaches to the data stored within the organization.  The conversation was a long and frustrating one.

I started working with this company to help them open up access to all their data repositories to allow people within the company to access and analyze the data without having to go to a data analyst to ask for a report or data set.   Everything that I’ve suggested this organization needs is being stonewalled by this particular individual with responses like “that isn’t secure,” “they can’t see that data” and “that isn’t their data.”

After many meetings without any real movement, I decided it was time to bring in the CIO into the discussion to help with either breaking down the walls this person was putting up or to tell me that those walls were staying put regardless of my suggestions.

The CIO, VP and I sat down and began discussing the issues and concerns that the VP had regarding my suggestions.  After we walked through all my suggestions and all the reasons the VP declared that they couldn’t be implemented, the CIO asked a few questions for clarification. After a few minutes of back and forth, the CIO declared to the VP that “we don’t own this data, the business owns this data…find a way to make this happen.”

I thought that was an excellent response from the CIO – “we don’t own this data” is a far cry from most IT professional’s feelings about dat. Many view data as their ‘property’ because they are the ones tasked with storing and protecting it.   That’s not a bad thing…but it has made many within IT feel like they have to say ‘no’ more than they say ‘yes’ to requests.

Through much negotiation and teeth gnashing, the VP and I were able to work through all of my suggestions and develop a plan to implement the necessary systems to reach their objective.  Included in this plan are proper data management and data governance systems and processes along with the right type of analytics engine to allow just about anyone within the organization  to take a look at data that interests them.

The key point of this is to highlight the fact that IT professionals don’t “own” the data. We don’t get to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to who gets access and what can be done with that data. We are just the keepers of the data and need to think about systems and processes that allow the organization to use that data in whatever way makes the most sense for the business at any given time.