Have you surveyed your situation? "If you have a government, how do we know what were doing is right?" he said. "What benchmarks are available?"
Do you have a strategy? "Benchmarks like the Data Governance Maturity Model (PDF format) are a great way to get started," Adler said. "Fifty-five companies have collaborated on different behaviors they have observed as being indicative of different levels of maturity. Thats a great assessment tool to compare to your own structure, your own program. You can say, Hey, where do we stack up? Are we initial, are we defined, are we managed, are we Level 1, Level 2, Level 3? ... Once you know that, you can decide on a strategy."
Adler usually asks a company where they want to be in three years.
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"Thats a nice point on the horizon that everybody can visualize, but its not so far away that its Utopian, but its still far enough away that it doesnt threaten anybody," Adler said. "When a company decides where it wants to go, that becomes the basis for a plan."
That plan leads to these three questions, Adler said:
Have you calculated the value of your data?
Do you know the probability of your risk?
Are you monitoring the efficacy of your controls?
"Typically, theres not a lot of clear thinking on this subject [the value of data]," Adler said. "You really cant figure out what datas worth until you put a price on it. We determine value in this society based on what someone is willing to pay for it. People make that decision on a daily basis around data.
"You pick up a San Francisco Chronicle or a San Jose Mercury News, youre going to pay a buck for it. Thats what the data in that paper is worththats the market value of it."
If you buy a song on iTunes, Adler said, "its $1.29 for a copy-protected version and $1.39 for an unprotected EMI version. Someones making a qualitative decision about what type of data they want, and theyre paying for it, because thats digital data. Same is true for video, or for 512 square meters of digital land on Second Life."
The problem in most companies, Adler said, is that "we dont have that mechanism [to determine data value] internally. And the lack of a mechanism to define a price that any individual is going to pay for data means that we cant account for its value, not really.
"So what I urge companies to do is think about developing content-level agreements, like a service-level agreement, but for a certain quality of data. Get your customers to pay not only for quality of service but for quality of data," Adler said.
To help make governance decisions across a large enterprise, "you need to have some kind of tool that aggregates vast amounts of information, folds it together, lets you correlate it and helps you identify those behaviors," Adler said. "We have that data in databases, audit logs, business process logs, middleware, event logsbut oftentimes we just leave it in our own repositories and we dont collect it."
One way to monitor the controls is to aggregate it all in a common repository, analyze it, correlate it, generate reports and notify people about indicative patterns of behavior, Adler said.
And thats why all the IT companies mentioned above are happy to talk to enterprises.
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Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz