When I posted a blog on Don’t Establish Data Management Standards (it was also on Information Management's website as Data Management Standards are a Barrier) I expected some resistance.  I mean, why post a blog and not have the courage to be provocative, right?  However, I have to say I was surprised at the level of resistance.  Although, I also have to point out that this blog was also one of the most syndicated and recommended I have had.  I will assume that there is a bit of an agreement with it as well as I didn't see any qualifiers in tweets that I was completely crazy.  Anyway, here are just a few dissenter comments:

“This article would be funny if it wasn't so sad…you can't do *anything* in IT (especially innovate) without standing on the shoulders of some standard.” – John O

“Show me data management without standards and good process to review and update them and I'll show you the mortgage crisis which developed during 2007.” – Jim F 

“This article is alarmingly naive, detrimental, and counterproductive. Let me count the ways…” – Cynthia H

"No control leads to caos… I would be amused to watch the reaction of the ISO engineer while reading this article :)." – Eduardo G  (I would too!)

After wiping the rotten tomatoes from my face from that, here are some points made that get to the nuance I was hoping to create a discussion on:

“I supposed more of us would agree that standards are not carved in stone, are subject to review and change thus the real barrier is the inflexibility in adapting standards to new requirements…” – Osama S

“…lack of a data management standard for what constitutes valid data for a customer, or a product – that is something that you ought to have defined as a standard, otherwise your consuming business processes are going to suffer, as well as analytical processes that depend on it.” – John E (I like this because it addresses aligning and possible adjusting standards to meet information use.)

To be clear, the intent of the blog was to surface that the standards we have in place today or the way we use standards today to manage data may be a barrier.  The level of resistance and horror voiced to the blog indicates to me the degree at which standards in fact do create barriers by being held up to such high (dare I say it) standards.  

What I think some missed (after getting excited over the blog title) is that you have to account for the fact that standards do and will change. For example:

  •  ICD-9 to ICD-10 diagnostic code changes
  • Waterfall to SCRUM development
  • Decentralized to centralized to hybrid data organization evolution
  • IT Cost control data strategy to business lead data strategy
  • Centralized to federated data management
  • Traditional RDBMS/ETL to Hadoop Solutions
  • CRM as the single source of truth for master data to linked master entity definitions across business units

The premise that you need standards to have consensus and consistency is not what I am arguing against.  In fact, it is often not that there are no standards in place for data management, but rather those that do exist don’t meet the needs of the business or data managers.  What I see all too often is data management and architecture approaches, decisions, and strategy changing only when the business has proven why data management should change (or failing that, the business goes around).  For example, in a client round table discussion one enterprise architect ask me if I was seeing the business standing up their own Big Data environments.  The response around the room from other enterprise architects was that they were definitely seeing this. 

If you aren't convinced yet, here is when you know existing standards are a barrier:

  • Expected data management cost will rise more than 5% this year
  • You can’t keep up with data requests
  • Your data organization can’t focus on strategy
  • You can’t measure data management to business value
  • Data governance is unsustainable or IT lead
  • The business is going around you
  • You are giving out login rights to feeder systems of warehouses
  • You expect the business to work within your process, not theirs

In the end, if there is only one standard that should always be in place – continuously assess your standards and change proactively, not reactively.  Have the courage to break from tradition when it is holding you back.

So, rather than talking in black and white terms, what standards are you finding don't meet current business needs?  Or, how do you adapt?