Three questions to help start your data management journey

by Kate Tickner on 4th September 2017

Three is the Magic Number

Three is a good number of questions to start with for any organisation that wants to get a grip on its data management to drive business value. After all, according to Schoolhouse Rock and, thereafter De La Soul, three is the magic number. Once you’ve established what your goals are – eg. GDPR compliance, single view of customer, operational efficiency – then we recommend you always begin by asking for answers to these three questions:

– What data do I hold?
– Where is it?
– Who is accountable for it?

This is an ideal starting point for any data management initiative. The next question after each of these is “Why?”, but we start with these three.

In our advisory projects we then move on to undertake the next three things:

– A maturity assessment on how the organisation handles its data
– The definition of a target state for where it needs to get to
– A roadmap for how to get there within given time frames

A thin slice

Our advisory services team uses our own Data Delta method as the framework for this work. We aim to show an organisation’s data “health” in terms of measurements related to the Data Delta’s 6 principles and 14 domains. (Contained within a three-sided triangle of course!) In theory this seems like a lot to take on but in practice we advocate taking a “thin slice” across these always keeping the specific, highest priority business objectives in mind.

Thin Slice

This means that you have to take small steps towards a defined goal. However, in our experience, answering those first three questions can be the most difficult part of a data-related initiative for our clients. Most organisations do not know where to start. If they do begin, they soon find that their ability to store, share and update the information places limitations on their ability to progress.

Getting some help

In order to address these challenges, most of them are looking for a solution that should be:


We have been showing some clients how Informatica Axon can be used at the start of the data management process to achieve these outcomes. In January 2017 Axon became part of the Informatica family and is being integrated into their Intelligent Data Platform.

Informatica Axon

Informatica Axon is a cloud-based technology solution. Out of the box it comes with around 25 different ways (“facets’) to model and view an organisation’s data environment (eg datasets, attributes, systems, people, policies, projects, interfaces, data quality, glossary, processes, etc). These are connected, and can be used to show the ‘health’ of the organisation (especially from the perspective of data quality). For example you might want to link your datasets to different systems or processes; an attribute to the glossary, or a glossary term to a policy. This can all be done quickly and easily.

Collaboration is one of the greatest things that Axon usage promotes. Imagine that you have overlaid your systems with your data attributes. Axon enables you to then visually show colleagues the connections. This facilitates greater understanding of the impact of moving data and of its lineage. Not only that but numerous overlays are possible for system lineage, data and process for most facets. This visualisation is something you really could not achieve in spreadsheets.

For these reasons we have found that using Axon at the start of a data management process in order to demonstrate to clients the answers to those three questions can be very helpful. It’s easy to set up and available for a monthly subscription fee. Entity Group can also run it as a managed service for clients that want to use it to continue to develop an understanding of their data landscape.

Come and talk to us next week at Informatica World Tour London about Axon and all things Informatica related.

What next in your data management journey?

On the theme of three, the people, process, technology triangle is easily recognised in this type of project – the data management and governance can be established, roles assigned and then appropriate tools used to underpin them. Once the basics are in place a roadmap can be set out and the journey embarked upon.

So your starting point is to remember the three magic questions:

– What data do I hold?
– Where is it?
– Who is accountable for it?

Follow each of them with a “Why?” and then find a way to demonstrate what you’ve learned to get buy-in and collaboration from the rest of your organisation. Then you are on your way – it’ll be an interesting trip.

Just remember what we said about three:

Now you may try to subtract it
But it just won’t go away
Three times one?

(What is it?)
(One, two, three!)
And that’s a Magic Number

With thanks to De La Soul.

We’ve had 3 x 10 years experience in working on this type of journey. If you need help please do contact us and we’ll set you up with a free two hour strategy session – say you read it here and we might even make it three!