Data: The Currency of Business Process

If money is the currency of commerce, then data is the currency of business processes. The functions of money in an efficient market are to act as a medium of exchange, a unit of account and a store of value. If you sell your car, you are willing to accept some pieces of paper money (or the electronic equivalent) in exchange because you trust the law and order provided by the legal and financial systems that back it up. Similarly, businesses need data as the currency to facilitate efficient communications across global business processes. A manufacturer is willing to start making things because the distributor’s inventories are running low because the retailer’s sales forecast are increasing because the marketing campaigns are driving increased demand. The players in the value chain (whether inside a company or across organizations) need to trust the data. In short, both money and data require governance

When money is used to intermediate the exchange of goods and services, it is performing a function as a medium of exchange and avoids the inefficiencies of a barter system. For data to perform the same function in a business process, we need a definition of the elements like in a business glossary.  In other words, we need a common language. If Marketing is executing a promotional campaign around TABLET Model ABC-356-TN, then Sales, Distribution and Manufacturing all need to have exactly the same understanding of what ABC-356-TN is.

A unit of account is a standard numerical unit of measurement of the market value of goods, services, and other transactions and is a necessary prerequisite for the formulation of commercial agreements. Similarly, when data is used to hand-off responsibility in a business value chain, we also need data quality standards. If the TABLET comes in three colors (codes 1, 2, or 3), is an order for 2.5 units with color code 0 valid? There must be an agreement between value chain members about whether orders for fractional units and invalid color codes should be rejected or substituted with another code.

To act as a store of value, money must be able to be saved, stored and retrieved, be usable as a medium of exchange when it is retrieved and have a stable value over time. Similarly, for data to have value over time players in the value chain need access to the metadata including the system of record, how it got there (data lineage) – even if it has been archived and is no longer associated with an operational system.

For more on this topic, check out the latest open peer-to-peer community of data governance practitioners, evangelists, thought leaders, bloggers, analysts and vendors at http://governyourdata.com/.

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