IBM aims to define a new category for business IT that it calls "data governance."
The Armonk, N.Y.-based technology giant describes data governance as the sum of information security, privacy and compliance, and to make real-world sense of it the company has formed the Data Governance Council, said Steve Adler, the council's chairman and a program director for IBM Data Governance Solutions.
The Data Governance Council includes vendors, corporate IT customers, VARs, integrators and technology consultants who meet each quarter to exchange ideas and experiences about how they deal with information security, privacy and compliance, Adler said. At the same time, the participants will attempt to hash out strategies and case studies that could spur more efficient, secure data management within compliance guidelines, he added.
"We're looking to provide more of a series of case studies, like the Harvard Business Review," Adler said, noting that data governance needs to be defined in language and in practice.
Since the late 1990s, the data storage community has routinely defined data as a company's most valuable asset, but efforts to link the value of data to the boardroom in a way that goes beyond a mere IT budget have fallen short, according to Adler. "Right now, nobody is listing data as an asset on the balance sheet," he said.
Forming a discipline around data governance could help assess the value of data in much the same way as the mismanagement of security, privacy and compliance can be calculated in real dollars, Adler said. Still, the council's mission is in its infancy, since questions about how to govern data, who will govern data and who will supervise data governors remain to be answered, he said.
Beyond the council's ability to provide a playbook or a list of best practices for data governance, companies that participate in the initiative will benefit by getting a tighter grasp of the issues surrounding data governance and how best to handle them, said council member Michael Roy, president of Blue World Information Technology, a security-centric IBM solution provider based in Seattle.
"There will be niche, gap-bridging consulting groups that will be able to help companies in line with some of the playbook patterns. But I think success will be more of a function of smart teams of consultants that work in accordance with a crisp methodology than any playbook," Roy said. "In fact, unleashing thousands of generic [best practices] may actually tarnish the effort."
The Data Governance Council's members range from ActivCard and American Express to Bell Canada, North Carolina State University and the World Bank, according to IBM.