Any personal opinions on the health care mandate being irrelevant; I can’t help but be amused by the liberties taken by both major political parties on the definition of a “tax.” When Chief Justice Roberts’ gave the majority opinion that the individual health insurance mandate was constitutional under Congress’ power to tax, the political spin doctors went into overdrive. Everyone on both sides is simultaneously agreeing it is and is not a tax in order to promote their agendas – and has managed to confuse the heck out of the American public in the process. (This ABC News story prompted me to write about this).
I bring this up here because this national debate on the constitutionality of “Obamacare” and the definition of what constitutes a tax is no different from many of the politically-charged debates occurring within your organizations with passions running equally high and confusion reigning supreme.
In the United States we have a steering committee known as the Supreme Court chartered with providing the single source of truth for complex definitions like these. It’s imperfect, but at least a process of some sort is in place. And they’ve got one heck of a documented vision statement called the Constitution that they use to guide their decisions. Unfortunately most commercial businesses don’t have a “Supreme Court” to make the final call on internal debates over data definitions, and as I discussed in a prior post many still struggle on the vision and business case for data governance.
So when your chief financial officer (CFO), chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief risk officer (CRO) are debating, for example, on how best to manage and capture, maintain and use critical customer information, it’s clear that some common agreement is required on what is a customer. Your CMO may only consider a party a customer if there’s been any sales, service or support interaction in the past two years – whether they’ve purchased product or service or not. Your CRO may only focus on customers that are counterparties on a contract. And your CFO might consider a customer any person or organization that your firm has ever completed a financial transaction with. This organization could really use a business glossary, with an executive steering committee to approve the core definitions within that glossary. A data governance effort might result in three separate business terms to meet the contextual needs of each of these executive stakeholders. For example, perhaps the CMO’s stakeholder could be called a prospect, the CRO’s stakeholder a counterparty, and the CFO’s definition would be the customer. It’s unlikely that the final answer will be that simple, but whatever the final decision, your data governance executive steering committee (“the Supreme Court”) must be the final owners of your business glossary – and once a decision is made it should allow everyone to move on to support whatever business processes, decisions or interactions these definitions are meant to enable.
I know the tax analogy isn’t a perfect one (Government vs. Governance rarely is), but hoping you agree with the overall concept.