Create value with data by ending IT’s sequestration

Just give business users the data. Don’t wait for perfection. Just hand it over, clean or not, and let it start creating value.

That’s the kernel of Blake Johnson’s advice to organizations who want to make use of data. He’s a Stanford University consulting professor and a Teradata academic. He has become a scholar of data analysts and data scientists.

“The whole idea of the unwashed masses having access to the data is totally new to some execs,” he told me last week. “A lot of people on the IT side still don’t buy it.”

I thought access to the masses had worked its way into the IT mind. But Blake says the idea hasn’t gone very far. The resistance comes from lack of awareness, he says, and fear. IT is fundamentally risk averse. They strive for perfection.

Business people have little patience for perfection. Their task is to create value, and if the process is a little sloppy, it’ll work itself out.

“IT will say it’s got a certain percent of the data modeled and clean. But who cares? Let business users in, they can help prioritize for business value. Instead of some arbitrary perfection, let it be a joint exercise from the start.” Let it be “ROI driven.”

One company he has worked with rated data for quality with colored flags. Green was the best, red was the dirty stuff. “Business guys know.” Let them grade it.

To make this happen, he says, someone in authority has to say, ‘Hey, Mr. IT guy, I know that’s possible, but let’s let business in on this,” he says.

Once the wall comes down, he says, the timeline from access to value is generally consistent. For example, when one business or one function opens its data, it usually cooks for about 12 months while the internal mechanics of access get sorted out. Then things accelerate. Success stories start to surface and spread.

The critical factor: Executives who are aware and who open the data gates. “That will trigger things.”

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