Data is the new oil – what grade is yours?

Bill Bryson’s book “One Summer: America 1927” provides a fascinating insight into the world of Aviation in the “roaring 20’s”. Aviators were vying to be the first to cross the Atlantic from New York to Paris, a challenge that took many lives, most of which were European.  

Bryson tells us “The American flyers also had an advantage over their European counterparts that nobody yet understood. They all used aviation fuel from California, which burned more cleanly and gave better mileage. No one knew what made it superior because no one yet understood octane ratings – that would not come until the 1930s – but it was what got most American planes across the ocean while others were lost at sea.

Once octane ratings were understood, fuel quality was measured and lives were saved.

We’ve all heard that data is the new oil. To benefit from this “new oil”, you must ensure you use “top grade” only. It can make the difference between business success and failure. It is also a prerequisite for Regulatory compliance, (Solvency II, FATCA, Dodd Frank, Basel III, BCBS 239 etc.). Thankfully, like octane ratings, we know how to measure data quality using 6 primary dimensions: completeness; validity; accuracy; uniqueness; timeliness and consistency. For more details see my post: Major step forward in Data Quality Measurement.

I also explore this topic in my post Russian Gas Pipe and Data Governance.

What happens in your organisation? Do you measure the quality of your most critical data, or do you fly on a wing and a prayer? Please add your comments below.

The dog and the frisbee and data quality management

The Wall Street journal reported it as the “Speech of the year“.

In a speech with the intriguing title “The dog and the frisbee“, Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England Director of Financial Stability has questioned whether the Emperor (in the form of ever increasing, ever more complex regulations such as Solvency II, BASEL III and Dodd Frank) is naked. He points out that the BASEL regulations, which have increased from 30 pages to over 600 pages completely failed to identify banks that were at risk of collapse, while a simple measure of the bank’s leverage ratio did identify them.

He also points out “Dodd-Frank makes Glass-Steagall look like throat-clearing.” The Glass-Steagall act of 1933, which separated commercial and investment banking, ran to a mere 37 pages; the Dodd-Frank act of 2010 ran to 848, and may spawn a further 30,000 pages of detailed rule-making by various agencies.

I recommend you read the speech yourself – his arguments, together with his wit are superb. I include a brief extract below:

‘In the UK, regulatory reporting was introduced in 1974. Returns could have around 150 entries. In the Bank of England archives is a memo to George Blunden, who was to become Deputy Governor, on these proposed regulatory returns. Blunden’s handwritten comment reads: “I confess that I fear we are in danger of becoming excessively complicated and that if so we may miss the wood from the trees”.

Today, UK banks are required to fill in more than 7,500 separate cells of data – a fifty-fold rise. Forthcoming European legislation will cause a further multiplication. Banks across Europe could in future be required to fill in 30–50,000 data cells spread across 60 different regulatory forms. There will be less risk of regulators missing the wood from the trees, but only because most will have needed to be chopped down.’

Brilliant !

Andrew Haldene is calling for more simple, basic rules. I agree with him,

I have worked in data management for over 30 years. The challenges I see today are the same challenges that arise time and time again. They are not Solvency II specific, BASEL specific, or Dodd Frank specific. They are universal. They apply to all critical data within all businesses.

The fundamental truth is “The data is unique, but the data management principles are universal”

It is time to stop writing specific data management and data quality management requirements into specific legislation.  Regulators should co-operate with the data management profession, via independent organisations such as DAMA International, to develop a common sense universal standard, and put the effort into improving such a standard.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.

Risk data aggregation and risk reporting (BCBS 239) – Board and senior management responsibilities

Post #2 in my series on Data aggregation and reporting principles (BCBS 239) – applied common sense

I was saddened to hear of the death on July 16th of Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective PeopleI have found the 7 habits very useful in my work as a data consultant.

Two of the habits apply directly to this blog post.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

I imagine the authors of BCBS 239, “Principles for effective risk data aggregation and reporting principles” are also familiar with the 7 habits, since the principles appear to be based on them.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Regulatory supervisors expect the board and senior management to “be proactive” in taking responsibility for risk data aggregation and risk reporting.  The following quotes from the document illustrate my point:

Section I. “Overarching governance and infrastructure”

Paragraph 20: “… In particular, a bank’s board and senior management should take ownership of implementing all the risk data aggregation and risk reporting principles and have a strategy to meet them within a timeframe agreed with their supervisors… by 2016 at the latest.”

Paragraph 21. “A bank’s board and senior management should promote the identification, assessment and management of data quality risks as part of its overall risk management framework…. A bank’s board and senior management should review and approve the bank’s group risk data aggregation and risk reporting and ensure that adequate resources are deployed.”

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

I advise my clients to “Begin with the end in mind” – by defining clear, measurable and testable requirements.

The authors of the Basel principles appear to agree.  The board and senior management are the people who must assess the risks faced by the financial institution, therefore they are the people who must specify the information they want in the risk reports. Don’t take my word for it – the following quotes from the document illustrate my point:

Principle 9: Clarity

Paragraph 53. “As one of the key recipients of risk management reports, the bank’s board is responsible for determining its own risk reporting requirements.

Paragraph 55: “Senior management is one of the key recipients of risk reports and is also responsible for determining its own risk reporting requirements.”

What is the impact of the above? 

Regulators will expect to see evidence of documented risk reporting requirements, signed off by the board and senior management.

Where are yours?

The Queen’s Speech and Data Governance

The Queen of England made an historic and welcome visit to Ireland in 2011.  She delivered a memorable speech at the Irish State banquet, in which she said “With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things which we wish had been done differently, or not at all”.

In real life, we cannot change the past.  The same does not apply to data created in the past.  Regulators now expect financial institutions to:

  • Identify data quality mistakes made in the past
  • Correct material mistakes
  • Implement data governance controls to prevent recurrences

I quote from the UK Financial Regulator’s requirement that all deposit holding financial institutions deliver a single customer view (SCV) of deposit holders:  “There may be a number of reasons why SCV data is not 100% accurate. This might be due to defects in the systems used to compile the SCV, but we would expect such defects to be picked up and rectified during the course of the systems’ development.”

Dodd-Frank, Solvency II, FATCA, BASEL III and many more regulations all require similar. Use this checklist to check if your organisation suffers any common Enterprise-Wide Data Governance Issues.

What data quality mistakes have you uncovered from the past, and how have you corrected them? I’d love to hear about them.

Common Enterprise wide Data Governance Issues – #14. No Enterprise wide Data Model

I was reading David Loshin’s excellent post How Do You Know What Data is Master Data? and I thought “I know – I’ve covered that question in my blog” – but I hadn’t.  So here it is.

Your “Enterprise Wide Data Model” tells you what data is Master Data.

Unfortunately, most organisations lack an Enterprise Wide Data Model. Worse still, there is often little appreciation among senior management of the need for an Enterprise wide Data Model.

Impact:
The absence of a Enterprise wide Data Model makes it difficult for even technical experts to locate data.  The data model would distinguish between Master data and replicas, and would clarify whether the data in the model is currently in place, or planned for.  Without an Enterprise Wide Data Model, data dependent projects (e.g. BASEL II, Anti Money Laundering, Solvency II) must locate data (especially Master Data) from first principles, and face the risk of not finding the data, or identifying inappropriate sources.   New projects dependent on existing data take longer than necessary to complete, and face serious risk of failure.

Solution:
The CIO should define and implement the following Data policy:

An Enterprise wide Data Model will be developed covering critical Enterprise wide data, in accordance with industry best practice.

Time to sing from the same hymn sheet

One notable exception to the norm:
This is not a plug for IBM…. merely an observation based on my experience.

I worked in an IBM development lab in Dublin during the 90’s. At that time IBM developed a “Financial Services Data Model” (FSDM). Dublin was IBM’s “FSDM centre of excellence”. BASEL II turned FSDM into an “Overnight success”- TEN YEARS after it was developed. Organisations that had adopted IBM’s FSDM found it relatively easy to locate the data required by their BASEL II compliance programme.

I forsee a future in which all financial services organisations will use the same data model, including Financial Regulator(s).  “Singing from the same hymn sheet” will make communication far simpler, and less open to misinterpretation.

The lack of an Enterprise Wide Data Model is just one of the many data governance issues that affect organisations today.  Assess the status of this issue in your Enterprise by clicking here:  Data Governance Issue Assessment Process

Does your organisation have an “Enterprise wide Data Model” – if so, how did you achieve it?  Did you build it from scratch, or start with a vendor supplied model? Please share your experience.


Common Enterprise Wide Data Governance Issues: #3 No culture of Data as an ‘asset’, or ‘resource’

Some enterprises fail to recognise the true value of their data.  This post is one of a series dealing with common Enterprise Wide Data Governance Issues.  Assess the status of this issue in your Enterprise by clicking here:  Data Governance Issue Assessment Process

Impact:

  • There is little value attributed to capturing and maintaining high quality ‘informational’ or ‘Master data’.
  • The other Enterprise Wide Data Governance Issues in this series are all symptoms of the failure of the enterprise to treat Data as a corporate asset.  An Enterprise that treats Data as a valuable corporate asset understands the value of data, and is likely to have addressed the issues I have identified.

Solution:
Agree and implement the following policies:

  • Data must be treated as a valuable Enterprise asset, that can assist the Enterprise achieve its strategic objectives, and must be invested in proportionally to other Enterprise assets.
  • The CIO is responsible for ensuring that the quality of Master data is measured, target data quality levels are agreed, and measures are implemented to meet the defined targets.

Your experience:
Have you faced the above issue in your organisation, or while working with clients?  What did you do to resolve it?  Please share your experience by posting a comment – Thank you – Ken.