Mastering data comes at a price

Evaluating that data and ranking its importance pays off in the long run

It’s all about the data. IDC this month is reporting that the market for “master data management” solutions is growing at a fast 13.8 percent annually, and should reach $10.4 billion by 2009. Is that a lot? Well, it turns out that $10 billion is also the total value of razors and blades sold globally, according to a recent article in CNN/Money.

A clean shave or clean data? Which is more useful? Which can advance your career faster? IDC’s report says good data management is more important than ever in light of business goals such as compliance and supply-chain efficiency. In fact, the need for better data hygiene is pushing companies to invest in “processes to create and maintain a single view of products, customers, accounts or locations through a single logical hub across the enterprise,” according to IDC.

What’s new here is that companies are taking a more holistic view of data management, rather than the functionally siloed efforts we knew in the past as, for example, product information management and customer data integration. The holistic approach requires infrastructure software that’s “purpose built to support any and all types of master data,” says IDC, plus a rethinking of enterprise processes to ensure all those data types are feeding into the right places.

My 2 cents: There’ll probably be more than a few companies carried away trying to boil the ocean of data without first thinking through what’s really valuable to know and why, versus what makes a nice PowerPoint. When I talk to data project managers, they tell me their bosses just want management dashboards to look at -- ASAP -- and care less about the actual quality of the data behind the dashboards. Maybe they should just give those managers mirrors to look in instead. Is there a server-side or DHTML mirror available yet? Now that would be cool.

And Another Thing, Chief: Just because Don Adams is gone doesn’t mean we’ve lost the ability to see and state the obvious when it comes to security. In a recent report, Gartner notes that securing unattended PCs can be one of the best ways to cut down on unauthorized insider attacks. And in particular, it suggests the use of session timeouts and authentication with proximity tokens (like an RFID keychain that hangs around your neck so the computer knows when you’re nearby).

“Forget hacking,” reports Gartner, “unattended PCs with active user sessions present a significant threat.” Would you believe … the old sit-down-and-read-the-neighbor’s-e-mail trick! Goodbye, Agent 86. We’ll miss you.