Data governance should not stifle innovation

A recent Harvard Business Review blog suggested that IT Governance is Killing Innovation.

Data Governance must not stifle innovation

While the report title and content are controversial, there is no doubt that many IT Governance initiatives have been based on a policing, rather than an enabling approach.

This post received much interest, and many comments, in the CIO Network group on LinkedIn.

According to LinkedIn member Lee Morrow

The problem that was ignored in the blog is IT history. In management’s collective memory, they relive the days when IT spent all the money allocated on technology and people (and then asked for more). Back in the day, ITs spending had no restraint. IBM would walk into a client and sell them storage based on the floor space in the data center and not business need. There was a disconnect between technologists and businesspeople that fueled the problem. Technologists would walk in and tell businesspeople, we need this, sign here. Businesspeople, not understanding, trusted and signed. Bloated IT budgets with little or no returns for the business led to oversight, IT management smack downs, and a shift in the role of CIOs from technology centric to business focused.

But IT still had some freedom to explore grander initiatives. Of course IT blew the opportunity during the “Mega Project Madness” phase. You know, those “IT knows better than the business and can reinvent the world in one big effort.” projects that ate 10s or 100s of millions of dollars and produced … “nothing”. I know of dozens of entities (public and private) that have gone this route. I’ve helped realign a few; watched others implode despite warnings; helped shutdown some; or redirected efforts to salvage others. Smack down #2 followed and the role of the CIO changed from business technologist to accountancy and tending the tech children who cannot manage their money.

Given this missing history, does it make sense to blame IT governance as the cause for limiting IT innovation? Or was it ITs bad old days that drove restrictive IT governance? I vote the latter. The blog is on target when they describe highly restrictive IT governance as non-functional. It takes technology vision/strategy out of the business which limits competitive advantage. Many IT organizations have become operations, order takers, and project delivery with limited vision. To fully realize the promise and value, IT needs to create technical strategy and integrate it with the business and overall strategy and execution.

Whether the HBR report is fair, balanced or accurate is a moot point!

It is all to easy for data governance to make the same mistakes, and be tarred with the same brush.

Data Governance must enable business efficiencies.

This, in turn, will free resources for innovation.

Legislation and regulation such as Protection of Personal Information (PoPI), or similar international privacy rules, or corporate responsibility and risk management guidelines such as Solvency and King III are important drivers for data governance but their restrictions cannot be the only drivers.

What is important is attitude.

If your governance program is based on principles of enablement, rather than restriction, it will not stifle innovation. Rather, by reducing the rework and fire fighting common to most IT environments,  it should enable it!

Check out how to implement a lean data governance approach by downloading the whitepaper

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