Information architects need a home

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When we do organizational strategy work for internal IT organizations or technology groups, one of the most common discussion points is where the information architects/ data czars/ data architects should live in the company. Someone has to figure out how a piece of information like gross profit is defined within the company, as well as how it needs to be calculated based on the information in a variety of systems. Oftentimes, our clients don’t really have this kind of role in place already, so it is more of a theoretical discussion of who should own it if it did exist.

It has been coming up again at a couple of my clients and so I’ve been asking some experts what they think. I asked a question of the CSIA business intelligence panel last week. Erik Duffield from JCB Partners had some good thoughts on the subject. Of course he gave the “it depends” caveat, but he elaborated that his preference is to have someone in the business own defining the measures of performance management, with IT owning the technical side of definition and implementation. That owner might reside in the Finance function in smaller organizations, in Merchandising in a large retail company, or in various other places in the business depending on the industry and company size. He also emphasized the need for multiple SMEs (subject matter experts) in various functional areas of the business tagged as owners. Good stuff.

I’ve also asked some of my architect friends who tend to work on the IT side of the house. Some of them do think this role needs to be in IT, likely in a centralized architecture group. Practically speaking, that’s where I’ve seen the most progress get made. Since IT really needs information architecture to complete projects, they often take it on by default. It may not be the best answer, but it seems to be more common than not.

So my conclusions on the matter haven’t really changed. Yes it depends … Software companies will be different than internal IT shops. Industries and company size may impact the answer too. But ideally, someone should own the definition of data in a centralized place within the business. And the technology group should own the technical side of making that definition reality in the existing and planned systems.

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