I had a packed call of customer phone calls today. It was, as usual, exhilarating. It happens every time – when you cram in a lot of customer interactions into a short time frame, it generates both patterns, and lots of ideas. It’s what makes being an analyst fun.
The pattern that emerged today I wanted to capture with my catch-phrase, “the three rings of information governance”. Five times today (out of 7 calls) I asked the customer to draw, in their mind, three concentric circles (see diagram below). This three ring model is what I used to answer a range of questions – that all ended up at the same point. How should I think about where and how to govern my enterprise information?
The three rings describe the different degrees to which information is governed in support of improve business outcomes. In other words:
- The inner ring represents the master data (fewest number of attributes) that is used most often by the primary/most important business apps/process
- The outer ring represents that data that is used by the fewest number of applications/processes (i.e. 1) by, ideally, 1 user
- The middle ring is everything else- and where most of the pain persists – much data that is added to master data, used by a number of business processes/applications, and a number of users
The rings denote the depth and completeness of the information policy decisions and challenges firms face. I think ALL IG policies can be thought of as different across these three categories of information – including security, quality, trust, storage, etc.
Most organizations get the inner ring – at least they say they tend to obtain broad agreement by most of their business stakeholders and architects. This is, in reality, where MDM got started. By managing the common, the core data between the most important processes, information re use can be increased and thus the value of the data increases and investments in programs that use that data are more likely to achieve their business outcomes.
Many organizations also get the outer ring too. This seems obvious, even if it is hard to implement. Data in this outer ring was like a quite summers day, floating along on its own merits, not interfering with anyone. This data does not need to attract the same level of governance that data in the inner ring needs.
The problems are in the middle ring. This is the realm of all that other data that powers or that uses manage in CRM, e-Commerce, ERP, Supply Chain or any other business application – packaged, developed or otherwise. This is where the arguments remains today. We all know the data should be governed – less so than master data and more so than the “edge” data in the outer ring.
We really need all the business applications to play well with each other (fat chance). There is just so much limited sharing of the base metadata -that would help with consistency in business rules enforcement, that could sustain a more mature information governance program across the three rings (and all the applications). Many metadata management vendors just don’t even know how to sell this concept – being happier to sell to IT that needs a data warehouse stood up.
But the point is this: think of these three rings – and think where you would place each attribute in question. Use it to communicate more clearly what is master data – and what is NOT master data. Seek to govern that which is most impactful of the business first. Worry about that other stuff later – much later.
I drew this 3 ring diagram at our recent MDM Summit and my (no retired) friend and colleague Michael Blecher actually used a variant in one of his metadata management notes 2 years ago. I think it’s a simple model – and I understand it over simplifies the challenge. But I think we need simple ideas in order to unravel the complexities we face. It maybe that reality calls for 5 layers – but maybe the 3 layer model conveys the point – and work we have to do.
What do you think? Does my pattern make sense? Does the model help? Would love to hear how others tackle this classification problem.