We've been having an interesting discussion in the lead up to our MDM & Data Governance Summit happening Sunday through Tuesday of next week in New York. Most of the discussion has focused on information governance, and our conference chairman, Aaron Zornes, has long embraced a "can't have one without the other" approach.

Zornes is no less passionate about technology, which has become an interesting dividing line in the MDM discussion. On one hand, you know you're getting somewhere when businesses embrace the magnitude of governance responsibilities that have much to do with roles, turf, change and culture. We can agree that kind of heavy lifting and conflict is easier to avoid than to confront. Things like governance programs are usually lagging indicators of actual progress in the process of tackling a difficult business challenge.

On the other hand, MDM is a sufficiently complex undertaking of data movement that it can't be accomplished without a significant commitment to technology in detail. And where governance meets technology is where Zornes finds his bone to pick, with vendors who have yet to deliver proper technology for creating, initiating, updating or deleting data -- and making sure it's been put to work properly with intended results.

On our last DM Radio show I co-hosted with Eric Kavanagh, Zornes was characteristically fervent in a segment called "Getting Started With Data Governance." Calling on recent history, Zornes reminded us that even a purported mover and shaker like HP that was never able to execute on information quality, information governance and master data management despite promising year after year that it was going to do just that.

On the home front, the fires have been kept lit by people who can now understand and explain why something like data governance in the context of MDM is important and valuable. "With any IT project it's where you find the money and the sponsorship, that's well known," Zornes said.

And, there's been a resurgence in MDM that feels palpable. If there was a temporary economic chill on MDM, there was never hesitancy on governance, he added. "Overwhelmingly the RFPs and RFIs we saw for large enterprise scale MDM programs out for bid always mandated that data governance would be baked in."

Zornes found that companies didn't want consultancies to come in only to deliver MDM, they absolutely wanted software to support governance.

"They knew that data governance had to be a program but the chicken and egg [problem] was that there was no software to support that notion and so big consultancies like Cognizant, Infosys and EMC made a lot of well-earned money building out custom frameworks for the workflow."

That includes software to help manage all the decisioning, arbitrating, debating, documenting, delegating and escalating that comes with governance, and that's the status quo we bring to our conference next week. Those kinds of tools are sorely needed across the product brands, and, if Aaron is right, I can't come up with a first mover vendor incentive for not correcting that.

I'll be listening to attendees to see whether the captive IT staffs and their contractors don't still think this is a job they should be doing. Bits of our recent discussions around governance have also brought backlash from IT types who think governance is just a new marketing front for data management. The DM job requires some discrete skills that systems integrators and enablers of technology think are under-appreciated by the business side.

I'm sure that's true as well, but data management as we knew it is not the same thing as governance. It's really a reflection of the kind of talent that's in demand to understand a business in the technology context of MDM. 

As Zornes sees it, the business could use a little help from vendors who promise governance tools and don't deliver it. As I see it, IT could do a better job of getting out of technology domains that don't ever quite connect with business requirements.

And business, well, they just want to see it done but if they're serious about it they need to learn and lead more, and not just gripe like everyone else.

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