Data, Data Everywhere, But Not Enough Smart Management

One downside of the data explosion: There's more bad data than ever, new research shows. Worse, some 'he-said, she-said' arguments between business and IT execs are standing in the way of a fix to the data management problem.

By Thomas Wailgum
Thu, April 15, 2010

CIO — Today, most enterprises are finally facing up to the "data, data everywhere" phenomenon—an awe-inspiring and unprecedented push and pull of data and information needs. The push: Terabytes of data flooding enterprise systems and applications, a surge which Gartner predicts will grow by 650 percent during the next five years. The pull: Savvy users demanding sweeping, individualized access to analytics and business information.

So, how's that been working out for enterprises?

Not too good, according to the results from a new survey of 200 executives at companies with more than $500 million in revenues. Here are couple of key findings from Forbes Insights' "Managing Information in the Enterprise: Perspectives for Business Leaders" report (which was sponsored by SAP):

Data Is King
The survey confirms conventional wisdom about the importance of data today: 85 percent of survey respondents agreed that their organizations "treat information as a strategic asset," notes the report. In addition, nearly all (95 percent) "go the next step, believing that information management is essential to business success."

We Are Aware of the "Bad Data Problem"
More than four out of five (82 percent) of respondents agreed that "bad information leads to costly mistakes by business managers," states the survey report. How much does all this cost? A majority of the respondents estimated that data-related problems cost their companies more than $5 million annually. For one-fifth of them, losses were in excess of an astounding $20 million per year.

Which Leads to a Paradoxical Business Situation
So if everyone agrees on the strategic importance of data and information management, and everyone knows what the negative consequences are, then why are there still so many problems? A lack of communication and age-old "he said, she said" issues are, apparently, two factors. Users (in finance, sales and marketing, for instance) gave the overall quality of enterprise data lower marks than the marks IT respondents offered.

"While many IT and line-of-business executives in the survey agreed that information in their organizations has its problems, they differ widely on where and why these data quality issues exist," notes the report. "While such differences in opinion are not surprising, they may prove to be significant hurdles for companies that try to improve data quality."

Who Owns the Data?
The survey results show that "fragmented data ownership" is the single biggest roadblock to a successful enterprise information management program: 79 percent of IT managers surveyed said data-quality responsibility was theirs; and 74 percent of the finance, sales and marketing respondents said it their job to ensure data quality.

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