#INFOARCH – INFORMATION OWNERSHIP

While I am preparing to publish my next article on Information Management and taking the opportunity of a email discussion with Jean Evelette – the author of the very interesting website MARS – Metadata And Repository System – I realized that a clarification regarding information ownership was needed. Here is the famous question:

question-mark

Who is owning the information?

I will not go into the philosophical debate whether or not the information should be owned…. Let’s say that for a practical matter, information needs, at least, to have a responsible at each point in its lifecycle (note that the responsibility may change overtime).

Such question deserves me to answer in 2 steps:
First, refering to my previous post: #INFOARCH – POST 2. THE STARTING POINTthe enterprise CIO is the owner of the Information Framework. The enterprise CIO is the Responsible (see RASCI model) to make the “implementation of the Information Governance accordingly to the defined Framework.” happen. e.g.: the CIO is the one responsible to have core information owners appointed (so called Master Data in our context – see the following post: MASTER DATA – SHORT DEFINITION ).

Then, this “owner” term is really sensitive especially since with the ownership comes the responsibilities… Most of the time, should I say always? ;), when we mention ownership, the discussion between who is owning what is coming right away…

The answer is quite simple to me:
Of course, the content (that we could also call “value” from a coder perspective ;) ) is to be owned by the “Business people” (such as R&D engineers, buyers…)
But, in the other hand, the structure of the information (cf. its metadata and the way each information objects are connected to each others – so called information models) is to be owned by the CIO’s organization.

So, yes, at the end of the day, it is a shared responsibility that we are talking about. Shared, but not blurred responsibility, each party has a very clear and defined responsibility mission (see above). As always, one of the key is that each party stick to is own responsibility, without trying to fool his/her partner by either trying to overtake his/her counterpart responsibility or on the opposite way: trying to push his/her partner his own part of the work (without formal agreement/delegation first).

Having this in mind, you’ll be ready for my next post… coming soon :)

General Note: I use Information instead of “Data”, this semantic difference is important since I am distinguishing between several levels of Information, the classical: Conceptual, logical and physical levels, where the Data is at the Physical level only.

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6 thoughts on “#INFOARCH – INFORMATION OWNERSHIP”

  1. Interesting perspective of shared ownership. My main concern with this concept is that any escalation would resolve only at CIO level. I wonder how we could create a structure to sort these kind of issues without putting a specific organization in place…

    1. Hello Pierre,

      Good questions, thank you for asking ;)
      1. Regarding the escalation process, this is a consequence of your second question… Actually, this is why a CIO has an organization and delegates to his organization members (remember, the A of the RASCI model) a portion of his authority, for him/her (the delegates) to approve. Of course, in some special cases, it has to go to the CIO for final decision (these cases have to stay exceptions).

      2. Regarding your second question: “how we could create a structure to sort these kind of issues without putting a specific organization in place?”
      My answer will be quite simple: I do think a dedicated organization is needed. saying that doesn’t mean a huge organization is needed (actually I think quite the opposite: a LEAN organization is needed, but still it is (needed). As I mentioned in my previous post: Master Data – Short definition, if you believe that your company information is a core asset that is needed to Manage and Operate your Company businesses, then as any Core asset of an Enterprise/Company, it has to be Governed and Managed properly. This being said, sorry to say but to start with I don’t see any other way to appoint and dedicate people to do so (which is basically what an organization is, isn’t it?)
      Then, if the question was: we can’t afford to spend the money / willingness to setup an organization to support these activities… My answer would be totally different: If you can’t afford to spend the money to build such organization and performed the needed activity, then Information is not a core asset for you and your enterprise. End of the story :)

      1. Fair enough. However, if we decide to build such an organization, where should it naturally land? Would it be centralized under finance/business administration as data is handled as an asset? Should it be under the CIO? Should it be spread in different organizations? IMHO, having it under finance makes sense to clarify the value of data management ; however, it lowers the mandate of each business to manage its own data…

      2. Hello Pierre,

        Let me try to answer as short as possible to your questions, in sequence:

        1. “However, if we decide to build such an organization, where should it naturally land? ” as mentionned in my post, the responsibility of the information structure belongs to CIO’s. As a result, it would be natural to me that it should be CIO’s organisation that takes care of this. As I often say, when someone is trying to

        2. “Would it be centralized under finance/business administration as data is handled as an asset?” You are adressing / mixing several points here – see: separation of concerns – Let me try to sort them out:
        Centralized / decentralized organization. Doesn’t really matter, it depends of the way your own enterprise organization is set. Both have advantages / disavandtages… I could write a post dealing with this point if you wish ;)
        under finance/business administration. Ok, first of all, it is not because I speak about “asset” that it has to be under the responsibility of finance or business administration… Let’s take an example here: do you consider your brain as a fondamental asset for yourself? If yes, do you want to delegate the responsibility/usage of your brain to your banker? I guess you’ve got my point :)
        Once this point is clarified, let’s come back on the “asset” properties. As any kind of asset, if you want to make the best usage of it, you should take care of it – take your brain as an example, you might need some sleep from time to time ;) – same with the information, you need to take care if it, overwise it duplicates, becomes obsolete, corrupted and start to pollute your entire processes (since information is the raw material of your processes) – I stop here since there is no use to redevelop here what I already developped in my previous posts. cf. my page Information Architecture to have the overview of my previous / coming posts related to this topic. -

  2. You forget that a lot of information is handled in some very local IT systems (spreadsheets) ran by business entities. This information is local for some reasons :
    – It is not known as a valuable information outside the local entity,
    – or it may not be available in some global IT system (derived information…),
    – or it may be available in some global IT system but in an unusable form regarding local needs (wrong semantics, bad quality…),
    – or local entities may not trust IT people when it comes to understanding their needs,
    – or, in some cases, it may be confidential information.

    This means that *de facto* information *and* models (even if they are not formally described) are owned, ran and used by business with complete responsability.

    So the target should be that information definition and information should be owned by businesses, in a decentralized way, as a clear mission statement for business entities. Business architects should be appointed in a centralized entity inside business (not IT) to build the global business architecture (with the owners). IT modeling experts could help because modeling capabilities are “very very rare” in business and only “uncommon” in IT :-). IT teams should only be responsible for quality and availability for information stored in IT systems.

    1. Hello Fabien,

      Good point, but not forgetten at all. ;)
      Let me explain:

      First of all, you are right, all these data that you mention, carried in local database (in best case scenario) / excel (most of the time) or even better… in documents as emails, word doc or papers (physical paper I mean) does; of course, exists and will always remains (whatever the reasons).

      Knowing this as a fact, let’s go back to the fundamental choice that I mentionned in my previous post: Master Data – Short definition. If you remember, choice we made was the following: “start by the core information“. I know that a notional enterprise architect would have tell you to address the complete scope of your enterprise… but you know me, I am not this kind of architect.

      Then, the next question should be: “Ok, fair enough… But what does make you sure that you capture all the core information of your enterprise in structured/shared Information System? (meaning, as you call it: not in the “very local IT systems” – disconnected from the enterprise Information System -)
      First of all, I would say: we are never sure that we gather it all, especially at the beginning of the journey, this is why we have to apply an “Agile” way of working – don’t understand me wrong here, when I say Agile, I mean the “real Agile culture” cf. the very good article that you can find on Forbes: What Exactly is Agile? Is Kanban Agile? – Forbes .
      In one hand, you will discover along the journey isolated and un-consolidated data everywhere. Most of them, you should never pay attention to, in the other hand, a small portion of them, you should capture and migrate into your “structured” enterprise Information System.

      Back to your statement, considering what I just explained: “This means that *de facto* information *and* models (even if they are not formally described) are owned, ran and used by business with complete responsability.”
      My answer to your statement is: “no, this is a way too easy shortcut“. Please see my previous replies to Pierre for more details.
      But as you noticed, the good news is that CIO should not take care of all the enterprise’s information… the bad news is that he/his organization will have to select (in agreement with the rest of the cast of the enterprise) what information has to be considered as “core information” :)

      “Business architects should be appointed in a centralized entity inside business (not IT) to build the global business architecture (with the owners).” Yes, this is a possible way forward, actually, this is the way the did choose to follow… and we called them “Information Architect” to be accurate. But, let’s face it… even though if those “information architects” are belonging to business organization instead of CIO’s organization… They are doing “Information system related work and considered by business as CIO people. This is just a trick that fools nobody.

      To end with you last comments: “IT modeling experts could help because modeling capabilities are “very very rare” in business and only “uncommon” in IT :-). IT teams should only be responsible for quality and availability for information stored in IT systems.” I definitely agree! :)

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