Thursday, July 22, 2010

Data Governance – Does your BIER have a good head?

BIER is the German spelling of Beer. In the context of this article, however, it refers to Business Intelligence and Enterprise Reporting. Good beer head is also a good analogy for good BIER. When a fresh beer is poured from the tap into an icy cold frosted mug, the carbon dioxide inside comes out and forms frothy foam on top of the beer known as the head. Many people agree that a thicker more aromatic head is the best indicator of the quality of that beer. Data Governance and BIER are much the same in that regard. The output of all of our Data Governance efforts is our BIER. The more accurate and relevant the BIER output the better the quality of our data underneath.

I have been working with data for quite some time and I can tell you that difficulties managing business operations most often stem from bad or poorly managed data. In fact, tracking down, documenting and negotiating fixes for source data issues is probably the single most time consuming part of a BI teams day. This effort often led BI teams to become more pro-active. Over the years, BI data governance has been one of the biggest contributing factors in the formalization of Data Governance programs and Data Governance offices. As the most visible measure of success, then, it is critically important that Data Governors ask themselves, “Does our BIER have a good head?” If the answer is anything other than a resounding, “Yes!” get out there and focus your attention on BIER governance.

The truth is, if your BIER is in bad shape, it’s because your source data is in poor condition. This can be either a process and quality management issues associated with your source systems or, as often as not, it’s because you’re not managing your master data consistently – if at all. However, before you can address the data quality issues, you should put some governance around your BIER. This will do several things:
  1. Give accountability for prioritization to the appropriate parties
  2. Ensure consensus on reporting scope, definitions, metrics, etc…
  3. Align/coordinate efforts between business units and functional departments
  4. Create transparency
All of these benefits are valuable to both the BIER team and the DGO. When accountability for the output of our BIER efforts is properly placed, then we can more easily align our focus with theirs which, in turn, ensures alignment with the business. Understanding your organization’s BI needs is one of the surest ways to ensure alignment with the overall business focus.

Often, it is not necessary to separate the BIER governance and the Data Governance bodies. In another article, I will talk about governance models for both BIER and Data Governance where I will illustrate this.

In summary, BIER is the most visible and tangible evidence that your Data Governance program is working properly. When the head is good, the beer is sure to be as well.
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