Corporate Information Assets: Why Are They Disconnected and Messy?


I had a few second thoughts about my original notes on corporate information assets. These second thoughts came when I took on a recent project to assemble a data set from several other databases.

I collected the requirements for the database from the requestor and then identified where we might obtain each of the data elements. I then identified the groups from which I would need to obtain access for each of these data sources. This is when the issue revealed itself.

Several of the groups that owned data I needed for the project held exclusive control of their databases. Furthermore, the groups were not inclined to give me or any other analysts access to their data.

In each case, their overt reasoning for withholding access was that their data were complex and required specialized knowledge to use the data appropriately. They had experienced problems in the past where other groups had misused their data in the past and drawn invalid conclusions, etc. They opt, therefore, to avoid having to trust anyone with a rather restrictive policy of no access for anyone.

I suspect that in some cases they also have a covert reason for withholding access. They may, for example, prefer to maintain a monopoly on their data so that they are in on the credit for any analysis that uses their data.

Given these circumstances, I have to question or at least qualify my previous assertion that each business should operate independently. In the case I cite above, separate departments hold exclusive hold on data sources that could be useful in concert with other data sources for improving quality of products or processes. As such, a policy of everyone owning their own data may not serve an organization well in cases where some departments refuse to share their data.

What, then, is the solution? In my case I have to appeal to executives to clear the way. This is not my preferred way of working because it usually leaves the department holding the data with bad feelings.

Ideally, a ranking executive in the organization would specify that all departments are to share data so that analysts and black belts would not have to resort to appeals for help from executives after rebuffs from data-holding departments. That is, unfortunately, rather optimistic and usually unrealistic.