ZDNet recently held an online data ownership debate. To be sure, much of the debate concerned consumer technologies and websites. Core philosophical questions centered around whether Facebook or Twitter “owned” its users’ photos, status updates, relationships, and “the data” at large.
It’s a lofty question not entirely without parallels in the enterprise world. I personally have seen more than a few data turf wars in my days consulting on large IT projects and even before that working on the client side.
Types of Disputes
While hardly scientific, I have found that data ownership disputes typically fall into one of three categories:
- That’s my data.
- That’s your data.
- Wait a minute…
Let’s look at each for a minute.
The Selfish Approach: That’s My Data!
Typically, the head of a department or CXO doesn’t want to share her data with the rest of the organization. She has spent years configuring “her” systems into a particular architecture that works just fine as is, thank you. While the organization at large may be moving towards a new enterprise-wide application or architecture, she just doesn’t want to play ball.
The “Altruistic” Approach: That’s Your Data!
Conversely, at times CXOs or department heads don’t want to take ownership over certain data. They know that the data in question is a mess and don’t want to contaminate their own systems, reports, data warehouses, and the like with suspect information. What’s more, they don’t want to spend the time, money, and resources cleansing that data.
In point of fact, this mentality resembles the previous one more than you’d think. In each case, it’s about selfishness and not understanding larger organizational objectives and benefits.
That’s My…Wait a minute. Who’s data is that?
On occasion, I’ve seen people at organizations in the midst of divestitures and/or acquisitions legitimately unsure about who owns data. This uncertainty typically stems from large questions around organizational structure, reporting relationships, and other political considerations.
Simon Says: It’s Our Data
Call me idealistic, but isn’t our data? I’m reminded here of the scene in the classic 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High between Ray Walston and a young Sean Penn:
[Spicoli has had a pizza delivered to class]
Mr. Hand: Am I hallucinating here? Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?
Jeff Spicoli: Learning about Cuba, and having some food.
Mr. Hand: Your on dangerous ground Mr.Spicoli.
Jeff Spicoli: Mr. Hand isn’t ok to have a little food on our time.
Mr. Hand: [takes away box of pizza from Spicoli] Mr. Spicoli your absolutely right. It is our time. yours mine and everyone else’s. But it is my class.
[calls up a couple of students]
Mr. Hand: Mr. Spicoli has been nice enough to offer us some pizza. Be my guest. Get a Good one.
What say you?