Designing an Enterprise Information Infrastructure

I have always been an organized person. Growing up, my room was neat, I kept track of my grades, my clothes were put away, and my bed was made. I have always felt a sense of discomfort if I did not know what was going on. In college, I quickly learned that organization was the key to success, and I carried the same philosophy into my professional career. Even fresh out of college and working in my first job as a manufacturing engineer, I was quick to offer suggestions to my more experienced colleagues regarding ways to implement processes to improve the efficiency of the organization. It did not take long before someone gave me the nickname “Mr. Process.” Although the name was usually accompanied by some smirks, I actually liked the name and referred to myself the same way when I interviewed for jobs later in my career. Mr. Process obviously finds processes to be important in an organization, and processes are absolutely vital in the management of enterprise content. Without well-defined processes, even good enterprise content will quickly tend toward chaos. Without these processes, there is no control over how data are modified and maintained. Data need to be managed. The importance of data management policies can be better understood with an example from my own work experience. In the early 1990s, I joined a software development company as the vice president (VP) of product development. At the time, the company only had 13 employees, but they dealt with a significant amount of information because they had sales of $3.5 million per year and over 1 million customers. Enterprise content included a large customer database, large repositories of software source code and documentation, and reams of technical support information. The small staff was having difficulties trying to stay abreast of day-to-day operations and had consequently paid no attention to the management of these important collections of valuable content. Mr. Process did not like this at all. During one of our weekly executive staff meetings, I raised the issue of enterprise content gone wild. I explained to the members of the staff how it was virtually impossible to locate and identify all of the software source code we were supposed to be working with. I offered examples of how our source code was being modified with proper controls and how it was difficult to even build products because of unauthorized changes. I told them how the technical support staff (who I was in charge of) were unable to find past support information on customers and how they were forced to enter the same information multiple times, and how they could not access historical information so they could learn from a knowledge base. These were just some of the complaints I lodged. Of course, the chief executive officer (CEO) asked me what I thought should be done to improve the situation. When I responded “data governance” I just received blank stares from around the table. I explained that data governance involves instituting well-defined policies and procedures for the management of enterprise content and also making sure that even the changes to policies and procedures were only made with proper authorization and approval. I expected a great deal of enthusiastic support for this outstanding suggestion, but instead the CEO simply said “How much will this cost?” Unfortunately, my response was not really what everyone wanted to hear. I was not, however, asked to leave the room, so I continued. It was actually not that hard to show the executive staff how much money we were losing from inadequate data governance. It was relatively easy to show how an investment in data governance would quickly pay for itself and help structure the company for future growth (this last part everyone understood and liked). Data governance became a part of the company that day. Because of our small staff count and the fact that I was already known there as Mr. Process, I now held the cotitles of “Mr. Process” and “Data Governor.” I began my tenure with a full evaluation of the enterprise content, the data sources, and the current processes used. There was a lot of room for improvements that were quickly identified merely by getting the information organized. For example, we implemented a source code control system with secure access rights that required all software engineers to check their code in and out of the system and have approvals on code changes before check-in could take place. I estimate that our software engineering department’s productivity increased by 30% the day this system was running. A relatively simple issue-tracking system was implemented in the tech support department, which ensured that all support calls were logged and shared for future reference. This system enforced strict data governance on all technical support information and saved significant money for the company. These are just some of the examples of changes made that were part of a larger data governance plan for the company. Moral of the Story If the shoe fits, wear it. I’m proud to be called Mr. Process because there have been so many times in my career that I have seen the positive result achieved by instituting good processes in an enterprise. I did not always know what the term data governance meant, but I have always known that if you do not have well-defined processes in place for management of the data in an organization, then the data will not be nearly as useful as it could be. Even the processes must be managed so they stay current and effective. Data governance and the processes it manages must be a key part of any healthy organization. Assignment The preceding story demonstrates how processes play a key role in enterprise content management. Without good processes, content will quickly tend toward disorganization and inefficiency. Data governance helps ensure that policies are in place and maintained so the content management will be effective for the future. For this discussion, research the library and Internet for information about data governance, and respond to the questions below. Consider how the company in the story had to face some of these questions and how they addressed similar issues. How do you think data governance impacts the processes used to handle data in an organization? What steps should be followed to properly evaluate an organization’s processes that are related to content management? Select 1 area of data governance, and describe how data would be handled with and without data governance policies in effect. Discuss the effect on the business as a result.