Time is money, but for decision debt collaboration costs less

Where chief data officers find their own technical debt

Market Manager, IBM

Technical debt is a term developed by wiki creator Howard G. “Ward” Cunningham to help us recognize the accumulation of time, effort or both poorly spent by not aligning around the best solution for a problem. Ward’s term is a metaphor for the act of coding for a quick-and-dirty fix while avoiding a long-term and inevitable solution. The quick fix is analogous to borrowing time today that only results in technical debt for the future.

Ward holds IT and application developers accountable for the quick-fix approach that inherently has costs and consequences—known or unknown—to the business; the debt ultimately needs to be paid. The debt created accumulates over time, and the quick fix becomes more protracted and costly to the enterprise. Eventually, a business can be brought to a standstill under the burden of this debt. Chief information officers (CIOs) and leaders know the metaphor; they’ve faced the perceived cost for decades. Chief data officers (CDOs), the new arrivals in the C-suite, now overcome similar quick-fix solutions with a tools strategy, an analytics strategy or both—I call this approach decision debt.

Self-service without governance

The first day on the job, CDOs find a range of tools purchased by users and IT. The full potential of analytics and promise of bimodal IT is derailed by data discovery solutions as they promote silos of self-service or data visualization at the cost of quick and dirty. Users have always put a premium on self-service and agility at the cost or borrowed time of collaboration and reliability. These same users acquired disconnected data discovery tools without knowing the costs to themselves and the decision debt put on the business. Join IBM experts and discover a CDO game plan.

Decision debt magnification

The thrill and ease of data discovery, along with the promises from vendors, can mislead users into thinking their solution comes without cost. Every user, working in their silo outside of data governance and operational processes, magnifies the decision debt. IT executives have known these quick-fix, disconnected data discovery tools leave decision debt in their wake, and they’ve found it difficult to consolidate their debts. IT executives are most often left with the bill; the debt likely will be passed to the CDO. costs less

Impatient users may offer the old adage that time is money. A great reply for CDOs is, “collaboration costs less.” In the rush for self-service, users have put themselves far away from the reach of IT expectations of data governance, centralization and organizational efficiency. The CDO has an opportunity to pay down these decision debts that users accumulate:

  • Consistency: Meetings wasted over differing views of common data
  • Distribution: Insights lost emailing reports long disconnected from central data
  • Operational: Time lost in manual push, pull, cleanse of flat files or data extracts
  • Data custody: Inaccurate decisions from reports not run from current and centralized data
  • Collaboration: Lost knowledge and analytics capacity from employee turnover
  • Credibility: Executives doubt decisions when departments and leaders lack a shared perspective
  • Scalability: Staff for disparate tools, including costs to replicate or lift and shift data to the cloud

Designed for me, built for everyone

Meeting users and IT in the middle is an approach IBM has taken with IBM Watson Analytics and IBM Cognos Analytics. Users are diverse in their expectations and skills, but ways are available to deliver the self-service that users expect without sacrifice to data governance and collaboration. Not much time exists to solve decision debt as IBM findings show most CDOs have less than a 24-month career. Don’t wait. Join IBM experts and discover a CDO game plan.