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Justifying an Enterprise Data Management Assessment

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Every organization should, and can, develop an enterprise data management program that demonstrates real value.  The process starts with an assessment of the current state of all the functions (data governance, metadata management, data quality, etc.)

Many organizations have begun to explore the need for an enterprise data management strategy to leverage the value of the data and information they collect, store, use and propagate.  In addition, executives have started to see the increased compliance and regulatory requirements as a call for more (or better understood) data within the organization.

Over the years, many organizations have performed extensive business process re-engineering initiatives to improve their business activities.  Any re-engineering effort starts with an assessment of the current state, since the organization cannot improve if it does not know where it stands.  Many assessment formats exist for improving processes for both business and information technology (Six Sigma, CMMI, etc.).

Since information is the lifeblood of a 21st century organization, it is critical for IT to improve information usage, consistency, quality and value.  An increased focus on the concept of data as an asset has spurred activities to re-evaluate the need to manage data across the enterprise, as opposed to within a single business department.

Challenge of Ignoring Enterprise Data Management

The lack of existing data management strategies has resulted in incomplete or inaccurate views of business’ need for valuing data as a strategic asset, which can lead to missed opportunities to identify business opportunities, improve processes and reduce costs.  A focus on enterprise data management and the development of the components of enterprise data management within an organization can lead to significant improvements in process effectiveness, reduced costs and increased knowledge.

However, before an organization can embark on the development and implementation of an enterprise data management strategy, it must borrow an activity from business process re-engineering and assess the current state of data management across the organization.  As the noted British scientist Lord Kelvin said, “You cannot manage what you have not measured.”

Much has been written about the business and IT process improvement assessment field; there are numerous books, articles and papers concerning the merits of and the tasks needed to perform a Six Sigma or CMMI assessment.  Unfortunately, data and information have not received this level of attention, so many organizations may be hesitant to embark on the data management assessment journey, thinking they will be alone and lost.  However, data management can use the foundations of the process assessment methodology to develop a data management assessment and improvement model.  Doing so allows data management to “stand on the shoulders of giants” and use what has been proven as effective by amending process assessments to fit the needs of the data management community.

Enterprise Data Management Assessment Process Outline

A basic format for a data management assessment could contain:

Exploration Phase

  • Interview management and staff to determine current state and desired state (requirements) of enterprise data management across all business and technical units
  • Identify any existing data management initiatives, whether at the enterprise or non-enterprise level (data governance, data quality, metadata management, master data and reference data rationalization, etc.)
  • Determine, at a high level, the benefits already achieved across any data management initiatives
  • Examine the investment in data management technologies (DBMS, metadata, data modeling, master data, data quality, etc.) by both IT and business.  Many business units acquire data management solutions independent from IT; all the technologies should be identified
  • Determine desired results of existing and future data management initiatives through management discussions and calculating returns on investment (ROI)
  • Assess the performance of business staff and their processes for data / information management

Examination Phase

  • Assess all challenges against identified desired improvements in managing data across the enterprise
  • Perform a gap analysis between the current state and requirements versus the desired state for managing and governing data, including an assessment of the expected level of success
  • Analyze the benefits and costs from existing data management suppliers using accepted analysis techniques
  • Compare and contrast existing and desired efforts against industry benchmarks and best practices.
  • Identify required information to develop and implement recommended actions for each chosen area of data management

Implementation Phase

  • Identify organizationally based benefits from an enterprise data management program for each business and IT unit (quantify and qualify)
  • Develop high-level enterprise data management strategy and plan (“roadmap”) for the organization, for each function (data governance, data quality, enterprise data architecture, metadata management, etc.)
  • Prioritize and present cost estimates for the enterprise data management strategy and roadmap components
  • Write report and presentation on assessment, including results,  and develop the data strategy plan
  • Present the plan and steps required to leverage existing and future data management activities and investments – receive approval for implementation
  • Develop detailed plan for executing first stage of the enterprise data management roadmap
  • Direct activities to achieve improvements on data governance and all areas of enterprise data management chosen for the organization (data governance, metadata management, data quality management, enterprise data architecture, etc.)


Although assessment is not an easy or quick task, this examination is essential for any organization that wishes to begin or improve their data management capabilities.  Using the models and methodologies of successful process improvement assessment formats, it is possible for an organization to develop and implement their own solid enterprise data management assessment and improvement initiative.


Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D.

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise data management, data governance, data strategy, enterprise data architecture and data warehousing. Dr. Smith is a consultant and educator with over 30 years' experience. Author of numerous articles and Fellow of the Insurance Data Management Association (FIDM), and a Fellow of the Institute for Information Management (IIM), Dr. Smith is also a well-known speaker in her areas of expertise at conferences and symposia.

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