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Editor's Note: In their report "Avoid Process Data Headaches," Forrester Research analysts Rob Karel and Clay Richardson advise BPM professionals on why and how to align process-management and data-governance initiatives. This article offers a few highlights and tips from their research; see the end for links to Forrester's Web site.

As Rob Karel and Clay Richardson see it, the problem is pretty straightforward: "Most companies are awash with data and are drowning in it," the two analysts say in a recent Forrester Research report targeted to BPM professionals. "Add to this the accelerated pace of change, and it's easy to understand why many organizations now place a premium on quality data and quality business processes."

Yet, the two note, "most of these same companies are oblivious to the connection between data quality and process improvement." Specifically, many organizations kick off master data management (MDM) initiatives to clean up, reconcile and add context to large amounts of data, along with business-process improvement projects. But typically, those MDM and BPM efforts remain encased in silos, and the resulting lack of coordination increases the risk that both will fail.

The solution, according to the report: process data management, which acknowledges the connection between data quality and process improvement. But adopting this approach doesn’t mean leaning on technology. Instead, the analysts say, BPM pros should "first align organizational competencies, governance models and shared accountability to improve coordination and collaboration" between BPM and MDM activities.

A closer look

Today, most IT stakeholders understand that IT's value hinges primarily on information quality. The analysts say that's why IT pros now focus on creating a "data-centric," rather than a "system-centric," worldview, one that breaks down silos and focuses on enterprise-wide use of critical data domains. But even the most progressive data-management professionals still struggle to create effective collaboration and data-governance programs, according to Forrester. Common barriers--explored in more depth in the report--include:

  • Failure to create close working partnerships between business and IT.
  • Failure to adequately address cross-enterprise complexity.
  • Failure to recognize poor data quality as not just the symptom, but the underlying disease in broken processes.


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