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From IT drudgery to IT freedom

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Program Director, Analytics Platform Marketing, IBM

A recent blog declared independence from routine data requests to IT, for business people with requirements for accessing data for analytics or other activities. Now it’s time to think about the opportunities of data refinement from the IT point of view. Does self-service data refinement devalue IT? Does it simply create more work for IT, cleaning up after business users who have run amuck?

No, on both counts. In fact, self-service data refinement, if it is properly implemented, values IT, reduces repetitive work and introduces new freedom for IT specialists.

4829_I_PostEventQuotegrams_2.jpgSelf-service data refinement recognizes the value of IT and looks to IT to create a safe, well governed environment for self-service—one where data is protected and compliance requirements and enterprise standards are understood and built into the process. What it doesn’t require IT to do is fulfill an endless series of routine “get me the data” requests from business people who are trying to create reports, analyze results and make informed decisions. 

How about the risk of business users and application developers creating big data problems for IT to clean up? In a well-governed self-service environment, that should be less likely than it is in a more traditional environment, where impatient business people strike out on their own in search of data sources when they can’t get timely response from IT. In those familiar do-it-yourself or “shadow IT” scenarios they often end up with unreliable, outdated information from sources that aren’t trustworthy, or data that is shared in violation of privacy rules, and they may come to IT later for help making sense of data that should never have been used in the first place.

In a governed self-service environment, on the other hand, where business users can easily tap into timely data from reliable sources, from within their familiar business applications, they are less likely to encounter or create data problems.

Similarly, if it’s easy for developers to create data-aware applications, with built-in access to clean, well governed data, those developers are less likely to create applications that bypass data rules and ignore data standards. If it’s easy to incorporate good data that’s appropriate for business users of the applications, and if best practices for data don’t slow down the development process, those practices can become routine for developers.

What’s making well-governed self-service environments a possibility is a new data refinery on the cloud that takes in raw data, combines it, cleans it and makes it available to us business users when we need it. Behind the scenes, IT creates that self-service environment and builds in appropriate governance that is automatic. For example, private data can be masked so that business people are protected from exposure to information they shouldn’t see.

Once the self-service environment is created, IT can operate more efficiently, devoting more time to solving complex problems, more time to undertaking new initiatives that grow the business and less time to repetitive data provisioning. That’s a change that should be good for IT and good for the business.

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