As we move relentlessly to incorporate new information technologies into the 21st century, the "knowledge age" dawns.

Whither data administration? The role of the data administrator is one of the most important roles in the intelligent learning organization. No organization can succeed in the "knowledge age" without exploiting its information and knowledge resources. No organization can successfully exploit its information and knowledge resources without an effective data and information resource management (IRM) function. As a working definition of IRM, let us use:

  1. The application of generally accepted management principles to data and information as strategic business assets.
  2. The function of managing data and information as enterprise resources.

The data administrator is the only role in the enterprise that has the "view" of the enterprise to make this happen successfully. No information resource management organization or data administrator can accomplish this alone. They must facilitate and influence others in order to accomplish the goals of IRM.
Every new information technology that bursts forth on the playing field for business problem solving complicates the task of managing information in an integrated way. Consider all the places where data is now able to be stored: filing cabinets; policy and procedures manuals; microfiche; records management boxes; scanned documents; non-database files on mainframes; database files; client/server databases; PC files, including application-specific databases; spreadsheets and PC databases; laptops; palmtops; hand-held computers with sales office automation; software package files such as ERP, data warehouse, operational data stores, data marts and multidimensional databases; data mining databases; CRM; Internet with HTML, SGML and XML; intranet; e-commerce databases; knowledge bases; object bases; expert system shells and rules engines; third-party or external online information sources.

This non-exhaustive and incomplete list represents at least 27 different categories of data storage places where interrelated data may be maintained, not to mention the different flavors or products within a technology category or the repository(ies) to house the meta data. The book of Genesis describes the beginning of the creation of the universe as "order coming out of chaos" according to a divine plan. As we move into the third millennium, are we accelerating order into chaos (if we had order in the first place)? How can we get to "knowledge management" in this state?

There is more and more evidence that there is less control than ever over the enterprise's second most important resource (next to its people resources). Most organizations treat every new technology as a separate domain of (non-integrated) "management" rather than an extension of the enterprise's information and knowledge resources that must be coordinated and integrated within the whole. With every new "island of information," the organization becomes more compartmentalized and fragmented. This requires an increasingly complex and often convoluted spaghetti web of interfaces to integrate the information chaos. In this state, the organization is less able to maximize the value of its knowledge assets, while increasing the potential for data quality problem introduction and process failure.

Someone must step up to the plate to get control of the information anarchy within every organization, before information chaos causes its demise. Information anarchy is "the absence of political authority to manage information resources with a common enterprise standard or principles." Information anarchy results in information chaos, the proliferation of a high degree of unmanaged redundancy and poorly defined data across the different data repositories.

The challenge for data administrators and information resource managers must be to create order out of the state-of-the-art-induced information chaos. Every day's delay in data design defects requires ten days in data design recovery according to information scrap and rework cost analyses.

Here's how data administrators can make a difference to their organizations:

  • Become a business person, not just a data person. Management needs team players whose personal goals are to help accomplish the enterprise mission goals.
  • Make the enterprise vision, mission and values your own personal vision, mission and values.
  • Restate the data administration or information resource management vision, mission and values in light of how they directly support the enterprise.
  • Seek to find the problems and issues of top management. Understand their vocabulary and their business drivers.
  • Develop business allies at the highest levels in the organization you can personally reach. Find their problems and let them know how your work can increase their success.
  • Listen to management to understand their concerns and problems.
  • Once you understand those concerns and problems, educate management as to how you can help them be successful.
  • Provide the education that describes the changes, authority, standards, processes and involvement required to make an integrated information environment and, with it, an intelligent learning organization.
  • Do everything you can to make those business allies and top management successful. The first point of information quality, "create constancy of purpose for information quality improvement" means, "the obligation to the knowledge worker never ceases." Information resource management has one paramount goal. IRM must enable the knowledge workers, who use information to perform the work of the enterprise, to have the right information, with the right accuracy, in the right context, at the right time to successfully perform their jobs to satisfy their customers.

What do you think? Send your comments to Larry.English@ infoimpact.com or through his Web site at http://www.infoimpact.com/.

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