Data Civics for the Data Citizen

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This blog post was written by guest contributor Donald Farmer, Principal at TreeHive Strategy.

Analytics, data discovery, business intelligence, data science: regardless of what  you call the practice of finding useful information in business data, two things seem very clear to me:

First, the use of data has expanded beyond the range of specialists to include all knowledge workers and, indeed even beyond that, increasingly reaching everyone in the business. These users are, in fact, Data Citizens, living and working with greater data literacy and a wider range of tools than ever before.

But just as we adapt to this new world, my second observation takes me back in time. In all of this analytics work, discovery and intelligence still serve a simple purpose: it’s all decision support. That old term still rings true. We use our vast range of data and all these techniques to help us make better business decisions.

The Paradox of Governance

The issue of governance is on the mind of every CIO as the new class of Data Citizens gain greater access to information and technologies.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has made governance a critical priority and the increase in legislation elsewhere is following a similar pattern.

Here, a surprising challenge arises; as we in the industry have developed and adopted analytics technologies, our emphasis has been on better decision making. But, governance is not about making good decisions! Governance is about making decisions the right way.

Of course, we want our decisions to be good ones, but that may come down to having excellent data quality, insightful tools, and well-trained staff. Yet, we can have all of these and still make decisions that cannot be audited or validated, or decision based on information that perhaps should not have been shared.

As we have seen too often recently, firms may be able to decisively target advertising with uncanny accuracy; but if they do so using information that is either illegally accessed or unethically collected, we could hardly call those decisions well governed.

Data Civics

What is to be done? There are tools to help. Collibra’s Data Governance Center and Data Catalog give businesses the technical levers required to proactively manage a well-governed system; but, I am convinced there is still more we can do.

The simplicity and power of business-user analytics tools have been matched by a steady increase in data literacy amongst business users. This has occurred not only through training, but also because business conversations are increasingly driven by and based on data.

We need similar conversations around governance and we need to grow a similar community of practice where we have data literacy.

We also need what I call Data Civics, a topic on which I will be hosting a webinar with Collibra coming up on July 10. During the webinar, we’ll explore the background to the problem in more detail, we’ll put some clear definitions around Data Civics, and we’ll suggest some practical steps to grow the practice in your business.

Data Citizens

It’s very powerful and exciting to see your team as Data Citizens rather than (a terrible phrase) “end users.” After all, they are not at the end of anything; they have the data and the tools to start something new. But, with this new approach comes new responsibilities.

Join us for the webinar where we’ll discuss much more about this compelling new approach to governance, self-service and, yes, Decision Support.

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