The formula repeated by data management consultants without exception is: Align enterprise data with the business strategy. Well and good. Yet IT professionals continue to toil in isolation using trial and error to align with something. To line up with the business strategy, the enterprise must have one. The enterprise must also be able to communicate, operationalize and implement the strategy based on real world business dynamics. This requires looking at customer-facing activities as well as operational efficiencies. If the strategy is known only to a few executives, then it is likely to be an idle wheel, not moving any part of the enterprise information supply chain or data architecture. Because software and systems are essential parts of every business process, it is essential to discuss the two together. Therefore, successful enterprises will form a cross function committee composed of business and IT leaders to engage the issues around the interaction of data architecture, structures, processes and the business strategy.

Here is where an example will be useful. In health insurance, strategy must distinguish between those who pay for insurance and those who use it. Employers often buy group insurance for their employees who are the consumers of healthcare services. One possible strategy is to build brand awareness and customer satisfaction among consumers while providing payers with products that deliver cost reductions or at least cost containment. The latter requires operational efficiencies and excellence every bit as demanding in terms of automation and optimization as consumer service and client satisfaction. This often points to centralized data management and architecture to reduce coordination costs and overhead. This supports management's requirements for a timely picture of administrative costs, utilization of healthcare services ("experience"), cash flow and statutory reserves against losses.

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