A recent survey of Enterprise Architects showed a lack of standards for data management.* Best practices has always been about the creation of standards for IT, which would lead us to think that lack of standards for data management is a gap.

Not so fast.

Standards can help control cost. Standards can help reduce complexity. But, in an age when data management architecture needs to flex and meet the business need for agility, standards are a barrier. The emphasis on standards is what keeps IT in a mode of constant foundation building, playing the role of deli counter and focused on cost management.

In contrast, when companies throw off the straitjacket of data management standards they are no longer challenged by the foundation. These organizations are challenged by ceilings. Top performing organizations, those that have had annual growth above 15 percent, are working to keep the dam open and letting more data in and managing more variety. They are pushing the envelope on the technology that is available.

Think about this. Overall, organizations have made similar data management technology purchases. What has separated top performers from the rest of organizations is by not being constrained. Top performers maximize and master the technology they invest in. They are now better positioned to do more, expand their architecture, and ultimately grow data value. For big data, they have or are getting ready to step out of the sandbox. Other organizations have not seen enough value to further investments. They are in the sand trap.

Standards can help structure decisions and strategy, but they should never be barriers to innovation.

* 203 Enterprise Architecture Professionals, State of Enterprise Architecture Global Survey Month,2012

** Top performer organization analysis based on data from Forrsights Strategy Spotlight BI And Big Data, Q4 2012

This blog originally appeared at Forrester Research.

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