Bridging the Gaps Between Islands of Data

We've seen it hundreds of times. As a company grows, intelligent people within the company want to manage their data in ways that will help them do their jobs. What could be wrong with that? Not a thing. People can do some pretty amazing things with spreadsheets and database applications. As companies grow - especially from small to mid-size - the tendency for departments and individuals to create these data islands increases.

There's one problem. These islands of data are just that: islands. Data is only as useful as it is accessible by the right people at the right time. Sometimes data can get stranded and inaccessible. Smart CEOs and managers take steps to ensure that both the input of data and output of data continue to be available.

Granted, there are definite advantages to independent data marts running within an organization.

Unfortunately, the list of potential disadvantages is lengthier:

  1. Uncontrolled data access. If you put the application on the network without security, anybody can see everything. On the other hand, perhaps your company's decision makers make poor choices, not knowing the data is already available.
  2. Poor communication between the data island and corporate data warehouse.
  3. Data and application failure danger, especially if running on a standalone computer.
  4. Limited awareness of what all is happening with data within the organization. What happens when Joe Wizard takes an extended vacation, or leaves the company altogether? What if his data is password protected? What if an employee or manager spends hours re-creating a report that already exists in a different system?
  5. Poor documentation. Sometimes it's difficult to know how to run an application, and the impact that changes to data will have in other areas.
  6. Departmental turf wars that arise as work groups challenge the accuracy of each other's data or the effectiveness of their applications.
  7. Redundant Data. As the number of islands grows, the amount of redundant data can grow uncontrollably across your company. And no wonder. Each island requires its own, typically duplicated, copy of the detailed corporate data.

What's the solution?

At a minimum, explain your corporate policy, outlining the need for software applications to be documented and shared with management. This may even fall into the realm of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for your company.

Rather than fight with the geniuses who built individual applications, embrace their creativity! Ask for their input on how to incorporate updates into your corporate database. Designing effective applications from scratch can be a daunting task. Why not use what has already been created as the starting point for discussion?

Data consolidation doesn't have to be expensive, or impede the ability of people to be more productive. If done right, it will actually help everyone across the company see the data they need, when and where they need it.