In a data driven world, 'who owns data' is a baffling but very important question. In many organisations, there is no single 'point person' who has responsibility for managing unstructured data.
Allied with this are questions such as: what do you put data governance over? Do you put governance over all of your data, or some of your data? Do you do it to reduce costs, improve the customer experience or support analytics?
One way to look at these questions around data is trying to identify those key data assets that are really valuable to the organisation. For example, customer master details is an important data set. That data's value will remain unlocked if there is no clear ownership of it and if there are inconsistent processes around it. There could be many approaches to handle an issue like this:
- Organisations will have to create a basis for data governance, along with a model platform; they will also have to the concept of roles and data stewards and sell it in other parts of the organisation.
- Instead of hiring data stewards, organisations can bring together staff who are passionate about data and data quality.
- Organisations could identify data sets required for the measurement of individuals' Key Performance Indicators (KPI's). Since individuals own the KPI and rely on the data set to measure that KPI, it becomes incumbent upon those individuals to maintain the purity and trust of data.
Determining Data Value
Data ownership is one issue. Another equally important issue is determining the data value. A company might accumulate terabytes of unstructured data over time. But how to determine which data is critical and should be saved and which ones to be discarded, because storing and managing data is a costly affair? Storing data has legal implications too (read compliance to personal data management laws), so this question assumes even more significance.
For example, recorded walkie-talkie discussions between security guards quickly take up large amounts of storage space as unstructured data. They could be easily dismissed before too much time has expired, but email communications are much harder to judge. Some emails can hold value from a legal or business standpoint, while others may be no more than daily business communication between colleagues.
Since data value is hard to determine, and the issue is related to data ownership too, the default approach in most companies is often to keep all data. This is an industry-wide problem yet it seems a problem for nobody to solve.
According to data experts, there's no magic solution to this problem. Most of them agree that there is value in unstructured data but not all data has the same level of importance. The only way to take tackle this conundrum is to surfacing the issue either through technological tools or managerial effort.
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