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erwin Modeling Letters from the Frontline

by Danny Sandwell       • October 12, 2015

In my role as Product Marketing Manager for erwin Modeling, I have the pleasure of attending many industry and vendor-sponsored events related to the practice of data management. However, as a representative for a software solution vendor, I often feel like my fellow attendees are taking me “with a grain of salt” because I am perceived as being there to move product.  While understandable, it still hurts, as our philosophy within the erwin Modeling team has always been that if you focus on delivering true value, the product will move itself.

The 10th Annual MDM & Data Governance Summit, held in NYC earlier this week, was somehow different. It was cathartic and in many ways an eye opener in terms of how MDM/Data Governance and, by extension, the practice of Data Management has matured and morphed over these many years. Before I begin “waxing philosophical,” I would like to thank Information Management and the MDM Institute for a thoroughly enjoyable, well-run and germane event.

My colleagues and I have always been consistent in our belief in the following: Data represents the true value of what IT delivers to the business and is truly a strategic asset. As such, it is imperative that data be managed and measured just like any other strategic asset. While IT professionals are critical in this endeavor, the business needs to be an equal and active partner in data management. Data models (metadata visualization) add significant value to most if not all data management initiatives and are critical to enabling business stakeholders to take their place at the table.

I am being brutally honest when I say that, over the years, there have been times where I felt like I may have been barking at the moon.

Which brings me to my experiences at the summit this week in New York. The event was not an awakening so much as a confirmation to the changes taking place in this space.  There is plenty of research, anecdotal evidence, and success stories from analysts and pundits available out in the ether.  But nothing takes the place of seeing, hearing, and feeling and seeing the excitement and satisfaction of real people, who are making real progress, confident in their ability to make a real impact on the success of the organizations they serve.

The value and importance of data is now accepted. It no longer takes the back seat to the infrastructure and “cool” apps. Data management is moving from an IT-driven infrastructure management exercise to a business imperative that is owned, driven, and funded by the business. Attendees in my session (65+ ☺) and the event in general were, for the most part, business people. They are sponsored, funded, and focused on what’s needed to achieve their goals. Additionally, the perceived value of data models and metadata is on the rise, not as a tool for IT to answer the annoying questions of the business, but as a true enabler for and by the business.

A perfect example of this shift in approach is “Big Data” and how it’s being adopted. In the past, new technologies have been driven by IT as an answer to a physical problem (i.e. performance, scale) or because it is a “cool” new toy. While elements of a technology driven approach still exist around “Big Data,” the majority of attendees I spoke to were taking a much more mature and business-oriented approach, focused on managing and integrating this new technology out of the gate to ensure they can realize the true “return on opportunity.”

Finally, as the leading data modeling provider, we are no longer trying to convince people that we can add value to these strategic data management initiatives and non-traditional (from a data modeling perspective) roles. Organizations are demanding it.

As a part-time musician and child of the 1960’s and 70’s, I should probably quote Bob Dylan and say “the times they are a-changin’.” Instead, I will break with convention and quote a band from the (yikes!!!) 80’s, Timbuk3: “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”

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