Rex Ahlstrom, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer at BackOffice Associates, provided an overview of governance in the new, consumer-centric environment.
“Governance is really complicated, so I’m going to give you an overview of some best practices and what’s happening in the market,” stated Ahlstrom at the outset of his thought leadership presentation at the 2017 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held on June 6 in New York.
Data governance is defined as: Establishment of policies and standards and continuous monitoring of their proper implementation by the members of the governing body of an organization. It includes the mechanisms required to balance the powers of the members (with the associated accountability) and their primary duty of enhancing the prosperity and viability of the organization. “In other words,” said Ahlstrom, “there are standards that are measurable, and the results of achieving these measurable standards are going to help your business run better. The top two questions I always get asked are: What should my organizational structure be and how do I justify this to get funding, because nobody on the business side wants to talk about governance?” he said.
“There are standards that are measurable, and the results of achieving these measurable standards are going to help your business run better.”
“We hear a lot of discussion about change management, digital transformation, moving to cloud—all the buzzwords in the marketplace. This all boils down to the change we’re seeing in how businesses interact with the consumer—whether the consumer is another business or an end-consumer. This new world of dealing with consumers is completely different than what went on before, and you may not be in control of your own destiny in terms of how you’re engaging with them today unless you transform to this new model,” Ahlstrom observed.
“This new world of dealing with consumers is completely different than what went on before, and you may not be in control of your own destiny in terms of how you’re engaging with them today unless you transform to this new model.”
“No matter our industry, most companies use systems of record. In the new, consumer-centric world, we need to have systems of insight. Systems of record are just one intersection point between gaining insight into how our business is running and what’s important to our customers. It’s about systems of engagement and how quickly we can respond to that point of engagement with our consumers,” he said.
“Information governance is about setting policies on how information in this new ecosystem will be managed and how to enforce these policies. These policies include data-driven policies, business-driven policies, ethics-driven policies, and security-driven policies.”
Ahlstrom advised, “If you don’t have executive buy-in on your internal governance efforts, find it right away. If you don’t have an executive sponsor, you’ll only be able to fund and deploy across the organization so far. Executive buy-in is critical because this is change management,” he noted.
“It’s a complex world when it comes to data, and the place to start is with strategy. If you don’t have a strategy for what your vision is as a governance organization or in establishing a governance body inside your company, it’s harder to defend its value. Determine the mission and vision of the governance body. Based on this, determine goals and initiatives to achieve those goals, and determine who’s accountable. Also, understand how your organization defines terms and how these link to policy and goal/initiative definitions. Linking policies to processes and monitoring progress of those processes are critical,” he said.
“It’s a complex world when it comes to data, and the place to start is with strategy. If you don’t have a strategy for what your vision is as a governance organization or in establishing a governance body inside your company, it’s harder to defend its value.”
“Next, determine the KPIs that matter. My advice to most companies and executives is to focus on the KPIs that the executive team reports to the board. Chances are good that these can be broken down into policies around how data is managed, and these policies can be tied to real things.”
In summary, Ahlstrom offered these guidelines:
• Think about governance beyond the “big three” master data objects—ERP (enterprise resource planning), PLM (product lifecycle management), and BI (business intelligence)/analytics. “It’s about every single piece of data that you’ll use to deliver that ultimate customer experience that will grow your business.”
• Set and enforce policies that are tied to business value/real KPIs.
• Empower all data contributors. “IT is an enabler of governance, and its job is to make this easy and accessible to the people that will benefit the most—the business user.”
ABOUT REX AHLSTROM:
Rex Ahlstrom, Chief Strategy Officer at BackOffice Associates, has over 28 years of technology industry leadership experience. He specializes in enterprise software within the data integration and information management space. Responsible for BackOffice Associates’ current product strategy, marketing, and technology in addition to analyst engagement and partnership development, he previously served as CEO of two software start-ups and held major leadership roles at multiple Fortune 500 organizations, including SAP.
Ahlstrom earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Drexel University. He's an experienced global lecturer, regularly addressing investors, business professionals, and large customer communities.