Your #1 Job….

Jan 6, 2015   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data Governance, Data Modeling, Database Design, DLBlog  //  3 Comments

Tim Berners-Le Quote on CEO connect data

I hear frequently, especially from the DBA groups, that our number one job as a data professional is performance.  That typically includes making sure database queries run fast, that systems have expected uptimes, and that developers/DBAs can do their jobs as fast as possible without slowing down to consider whether or not they are doing the right thing for the data. In fact, I’ve been told many times that data quality is Job NULL, meaning that we shouldn’t care as much about data quality as we do about performance.  The crazy things I’ve read: query running slow? Delete some rows and see if anyone notices.  Assign numeric datatypes to number-like columns so they will be smaller (and missing leading zeros).  Make columns small, even if it means losing data. Shove data in a column with comma delimiters so that you don’t have to change the database.  Re-use a column for something it was never intended for.

Developers and DBAs start thinking this way, for the most part, because they are measured and rewarded based on all kinds of factors other than data quality.  And yet management expects systems to support exactly what Tim Berners-Lee says in this quote.  Sure, making systems purr is one part of allowing data to be connected across sources.  But misleading data, mis-understoood data and plain old bad data means that CEOs can’t run a company effectively. 

Any enterprise CEO really ought to be able to ask a question that involves connecting data across the organization, be able to run a company effectively, and especially to be able to respond to unexpected events.

Most organizations are missing this ability to connect all the data together.

There are all kinds of presentations and blog posts about how to make systems run fast.  There are so few about how to love your data so that the CEO can rely on it. The first person that needs to fix this mismatch of incentives and actions is the CEO.  She needs to ensure that IT professionals are properly evaluated and motivated to produce both fast data and correct data.  And to stop providing incentives for IT professionals to work against data quality.

DBAs and Developers want to do the right thing. It’s just that we are paying them to do the wrong things over the right things.  


  • Karen, bravo for saying one of the most important things that can be said about IT today. When you think about it, the implications are vast. Something about the emperor and clothes I think. As a sales person who has also had some significant involvement in reporting, analytics and data quality, I ask myself how across business we can be stuck in such a “sub-optimal data equilibrium”, as the economists would have it.

    Because theoretically, good data should enable success and then organizations with good data would perform better, thus winnowing out bad data governance. The fact that this process is not operative is interesting. And I’m not sure that any amount of encouragement for CEOs to care will make a difference. Your strong background and reputation as a data maven goes a long way to at least giving the concerns credibility.

    • As a data person, all this mistreatment of data for very little gain drives me crazy. I see teams making decisions that I know will lead to thousands of hours of work down the line and cause all kinds of business decisions to be just plain wrong. Yet there’s nothing to stop that train wreck from happening.

      If only the business insisted on data quality as a key part of IT architectures and project management.

  • […] We’ve been using the wrong data types for all the wrong reasons.  DBAs, developers, data architects, etc. have all been told to keep data as narrow as possible, using the smallest data type to get the job done.  We sacrificed the integrity of our data for the performance of our data, and I’d like to thank Karen López (b|t) for pointing out that performance is NOT our #1 Job. […]

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