EFIS 2015: Automation Key, But People Trump Tech for Governance

Processes remain important for implementing data governance, but it's human beings who set and implement them.

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In an industry obsessed with robo-trading, technology and processes, the fact remains that the data strategies to set processes and orchestrate change hinge on a very human element──people themselves and their individual skillsets, said panelists at this week's European Financial Information Summit.

When moderator Chris Bannocks, chief data management officer at ING, asked the panel what they consider the best tools for monitoring overall data quality most effectively, panelists stressed the importance of having the right team in place.

"The most important tool is the person, or group of people. Whatever tool you use, if you have people who don't understand data, they will misuse the tools," said Ian Race, head of technology design and estimation technology at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Panelists agreed that the lack of proper training and decline of department numbers should take precedence over other data governance challenges. "We don't pay teams the way we should; we've outsourced our intellectual property to people who know nothing about data," said Tom Dalglish, head of transformation at Smartstream.

In contrast, "If you bring someone on board and pay them a six-figure salary, and say ‘You have to get this data right or you're going to get fired,' they're going to get it right," said Simon Feddo, director of group data services at UBS.

Stephen Line, vice president of Northern EMEA at Cloudera, emphasized developing new utility services may prove futile without a proper team. "Without the right people to drive the technology, you're not going to achieve great things," he said. However, Line also said that people are not the only problem, adding that firms must also devote resources to improving automation levels around the data quality process.

In addition, without the right people involved, it becomes harder to communicate the importance of proper data governance and a philosophy of good data management to the business. "It's key to bring the stakeholders along with you. We need to make it clear that data governance is an enabler to making their job easier and to using, manipulating and getting value out of data," said John Parkinson, UK head of data governance at Capgemini.

When beginning the data governance "journey," it's important to remove complexity and lay out a simple roadmap or risk stakeholders being daunted by the scope, Bannocks said. However, without governance, "Your data lake becomes a data cesspool─a place where you just throw a load of stuff. Without governance, you can't understand the quality of the data and what you can actually do with it," Line said.

The panel concluded that data governance is not just a technology and communication problem, but is a business problem, with having the right people at its heart.

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