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Leaky plumbing: Thoughts on the 2014 Gartner MDM Conference in Europe

April 3, 2014

I recently attended the Gartner Master Data Management conference in Europe. Andrew White, a senior Gartner analyst, shared a statistic during the opening keynote presentation that stuck with me—the statistic is this:

"Roughly 1 in 3 organizations will suffer an information crisis in the next 2 years." 

In other words, these organizations will endure some kind of serious crisis due to information being of poor quality, ungoverned, inaccurate, inconsistent or compromised from a security standpoint. We have all probably worked with or for an organization where the pain of one of these crises has been felt. There are many potential ways that ungoverned information might turn into a crisis from an organization's point of view; for example, the crisis might:

  • Result in financial impacts large enough to get the attention of executives
  • Put an organization out of compliance with some regulation
  • Cause key clients to stop doing business with an organization
  • Impact an organization's ability to execute a merger or acquisition

These are all examples of the ways that ungoverned information can lead to such large problems that it would be visible to senior leaders and deemed a crisis.

One in three is a large chunk of organizations, to be sure. In fact, I spent the whole morning thinking about how massive that very impact could be to these organizations and, to be honest, I really felt bad for those poor organizations, whomever they turn out to be. But the more I thought about it during the rest of the conference, the more I realized that the other two out of three organizations might actually be worse off. At least the organizations who end up with the crisis will realize it and have a chance to react to and overcome the crisis. What about the other two thirds of the organizations? I wager they also have their own problems and pains as a result of information that is ungoverned, inaccurate, inconsistent or otherwise of poor quality. They just haven't reached a tipping point where the pain becomes visible to somebody with the clout and pocketbook to fix the problem. But who's to say the financial (or other) cost of the information problems at the other two out of three organizations is any less severe? Maybe it's just less obvious, or spread around in a way that hasn't reached a crisis level. 

Perhaps a good analogy is leaky plumbing. The one third of organizations who reach information crisis will have burst pipes; the problem is so severe and noticeable that you must fix it right away. The other two thirds might just have a slow leak or drip. Over the long term, they might suffer more damage and expense from the slow leak than the one third who had to fix the burst pipe early on. 

For me, the take-away is actually to think about ways we can help the other two out of three companies—ways in which we can help them see the cost of the slow leak and take action before it becomes a crisis. The one out of three with the information crises will have no choice but to seek out solutions to information governance problems; the other two out of three might not realize that information governance solutions are still valuable to them, and they won't know to seek out those solutions.