Over the years, the IBM Data Governance Council has had many international meetings:
- 2005 - Kronborg Castle, Helsingoer Denmark
- 2006 - Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada
- - Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, Germany
- - Hotel de Ville, Paris, France
- 2007 - Isola di Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy
- 2008 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- - Zappieon Palace, Athens, Greece
- 2009 - L'Hermitage, Franschoek, South Africa
On January 21-22, 2010, the IBM Data Governance Council will be starting a chapter in Poland by meeting in Warsaw.
Around the world, Data Governance is in hot demand.
We want our leaders to make the right decisions. But often they lack the right information. And when they do, they "trust their gut." Unfortunately, the stomach is the wrong organ for decision-making and ignorance, fear, and prejudice are often the poor substitutes for trusted information and rigorous analysis. And we know the result.
We don't want every decision belabored by bureaucracy. We want decisions that are Smart; informed by what we know we don't know, contextual to past experience, compared to current conditions, and prepared for future exigencies.
Few organizations have mastered this process today. Few in fact have any notion of what information they need to make Smart Governing Decisions. But everyone wants to. The aspiration is universal, because the competitive challenges in a flat world make bad decisions very costly.
Smart Decisions demand Smart Information - Information about what's going on. Operational Awareness. That's the kind of information we will be exploring at The Smart Governance Forum I will be hosting on February 1-3, at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay in California.
I think we can make a difference and I hope you will join us. Smart Governance Forum Agenda
It was raining hard yesterday morning when I awoke in Krakow. November 11 is Independence Day in Poland and all businesses are closed. No customer meetings could be held and the trip from Krakow to Wroclaw can only be made comfortably by car. It is about 380km that separates the main cities of Galicia and Silesia, but the 5 hour train service still relies on mid-50's Soviet cars and I am assured they smell worse than NY subways. We opted for a modest Kia and the open road.
But before we drove off, we took a rainy walk up to the Wawel Cathedral, which sits on a mount next to the Vistula River and guards the city. The walls surrounding Wawel are impressive, with large turets, and massive ramparts. It is an imposing fortress, with a cathedral and royal palace inside. As we walked up the ramp leading to the old gate, we were joined by scouts, priests, soldiers, police and fire brigades carrying bouquets of flowers, in official uniform, marching up to a ritual we would soon be swept up in. At the gates, dignitaries were smoking cigarettes and preparing their uniforms for the event. Inside the church, representatives from the Polish Home Army, the resistance during WWII, were marching into the cathedral with unit flags and solemn stares. And of course there were representatives from Solidaritait, the labor movement in the 1980's that challenged Soviet rule and began the destruction of the Iron Curtain.
The church was crowded wall to wall with young and old alike, all there to celebrate Polish Independence from the Russians, Germans, and Austrians in 1918, and again from the Soviets in 1990. Young priests walked in processions around the church, soldiers, police, and fire brigades marched behind with carbines and formal uniforms. And a choir sung beautiful songs of freedom. It was a magical event, and I felt privileged to be there - not just a tourist looking in, but a participant standing shoulder to shoulder with other Poles celebrating Freedom and Independence.
Later, we walked down to the Old Town and had a coffee as the rain came down and went back to the hotel to get our car and leave. Krakow melts away into rustic suburbs in 30 seconds on the motorway. The 4 lane road is well-designed and modern feeling, but there is almost nothing on either side except fields, valleys, and farms.
We are driving to Wroclaw with an obligatory stop at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The trip takes 1.5 hours and during the last twenty minutes I try to steel myself for the horror story that awaits. It is still raining, cold, and visibility is terrible. I have been to Dachau, outside Munich, and Bergen Belson, near Hamburg, but never to a place purposely built for the industrial destruction of human beings.
The camp is not how I imagined it to be. Auschwitz itself is really three camps, each about 50 brick buildings two stories high, quite long and wide, surrounded by wide earthen and stone streets that were full of very sharp stones that must have been painful to walk on without shoes in any weather. The blocks are surrounded by rings of barbed wire, and the horrible gates where it says "Arbeit Macht Frei." We all know what it means without translation, and inside each barrack block is now a museum of terror, illustrating the systemic ways people were destroyed.
The story starts with the 1939 pact between Russia and Germany to carve Poland up in two. The Soviets got Vilnius, Bialystok, and Lvov, and the Germans got the rest. Plans were made in that year for the systemic elimination of the Polish state. Both sides shared a vision for the termination of the entire Polish intelligencia, police, army, civil service, and anyone with an advanced education. 30% of the Polish nation was to be exterminated, and they succeeded in killing close to 6 million Catholic and Jewish Poles in six years.
After touring the museums, we drove 2km to Birkenau, which is far larger than Auschwitz. There must have been 500 long single story wooden blocks at Birkenau, but only about 30 remain today. Most, including the gas chambers and crematoria were destroyed by the Germans as they fled the Soviet Army in 1944 and 5. As we arrived, a large group of Israeli students were getting out of buses, unfurling large Israeli flags and making their way to the infamous Birkenau gates. I followed them in, happy to be there among living Jews come so far to remember the dead.
At one of the blocks, the Israelis set themselves up to recite prayers and sing songs. They were about 50 gathered around the stone central mound in the middle of the room. Thin windows above let some of the late afternoon light in, but the room was dark, and the rain dripped outside. Candles were lit to lighten the room, and as I walked in the room, a guard at the door said to me, "who are you." His eyes and attitudes said, "you are not one of us." I told him, "I am Steven Adler from NY, who are you?" He smiled and let me in.
In the room, they said prayers in Hebrew and sang songs. They were young, boisterous, and defiant going into the room, defiant and somber going out. Auschwitz is a museum. Birkenau is a mausoleum. The cold field whispers death. You leave haunted.
I will never forget.
Winter and I have arrived in Warsaw. It is November 9, 2009, twenty years to the day since the Berlin Wall fell and I am in a gorgeous Hilton Hotel in the city that still has the scars of the 20th Century written in it's streets. The trees are bare here, the temperature hovers around 5C. A foggy rain shrouds the city. All around this hotel are the scarred foundations and empty lots from the Jewish Ghetto, destroyed in 1943 by the barbaric Nazis.
It's an eerie feeling, but this day is like any in Warsaw. My hotel is full of professional wrestlers and their groupies from a large match nearby. The lobby has men with necks the size of my waist. They are drinking at the bar, flirting with women drawn to the spectacle, and loudly proclaiming their happy personalities.
We remember this day as the end of tyranny in the East, the final chapter in a 50 year book of horror that began in 1939. Lucky those alive today who don't have to remember.
Last night, I was one of two panelists at a Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) symposium on Systemic Risk at Fordham Business School in New York. We were to be a moderator with three panelists, but one canceled at the last minute, presumably to stay home and watch the Yankees lose to the Phillies last night. The room was on the 12th floor in a mid-60's squat tower accessible from two elevators among a bank of six in the stone cold open and office-like lobby. Twelve is the top floor in the building, with a Rockefeller penthouse atmosphere. Black marble floors, mahogany paneling, subdued sixties swank.
The symposium room was longer than wide, seated classroom for one hundred in three neat blocks. We panelists were paired on a white-clothed-table with microphones we didn't need. The moderator introduced us both; the NYU Business School professor and the IBM Data Governance guy. The audience looked half-asleep, and the first question rolled out on the table, "What is Systemic Risk?" Our gracious moderator had prepared a raft of intelligent questions for us that evening, but we would only get through two in the brief hour we digested.
What is Systemic Risk? The professor told us it was the result of exogenous market conditions that created upper atmospheric bubbles in complex derivative instruments capable of devastating global economies. It could be measured in the up and down-swing of aggregate equity performance and controlled through the central banks he currently advises. He saw Systemic Risk as a macro-economic phenomena, the product of weak government regulation, greed on Wall Street, outrageous compensation packages, and unnecessary complexity in financial markets.
Before the event, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to talk about. It was a hectic Monday full of ten conference calls on twenty different topics. I left late, had traffic on the Grand Central, got lost at Lincoln Center looking for parking, and there was no coffee when I arrived. I'm not an evening person un-caffeinated, and perhaps not the best morning person in the same condition. But droll media babble passed as tenured professorial wisdom will rouse me on the sleepiest of days.
Systemic Risk is the probability of loss to a system. It is not actually a thing that can be calculated. It is a series of things that result in a loss event with causality and impact. Systemic Risk is not only about macro-economic catastrophe, because to say so is to say that we are not involved in Systemic Risk accept as victims. And that ain't true. Insofar as all of us, The People, are members of communities, parties, religions, nations, and environments we are part of a System. We are inter-related, inter-dependent, capable of causality, errors and omissions, losses and claims. Each incremental failure can cascade and result in systemic exposure.
The Credit Crisis is the result of a series of public policy mistakes from 1999 to 2006 that encouraged bad business practices at many different stages of the mortgage underwriting and securitization process. These were incremental failures that contributed to loss events that destroyed parts of the economic systems upon which markets rely. The lesson to humanity from this experience is that We The People are all members of SYSTEMS large and small that can fail as a result of incremental policy mistakes. Actuarial Science has for too long focused on the probabilities of contained loss events.
My body is a SYSTEM and Cancer is a systemic risk to me. It causes a
chain of events which can result in organ failure and death. Your company
is a system, and bankruptcy is a systemic loss event. If bees die,
plants won't be pollinated, and that can be causality to a systemic
risk to our ecoSYSTEM. The BBC Reports
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8338880.stm) that record
numbers of plants, mammals, and amphibians are under threat of
extinction. This is a systemic risk. When entire species of frogs in
remote places like Tanzania become extinct in the wild, humans take
note - this incremental failure is closer to your role in the food
chain than you may think.
Every System has risk. Every person in every system has a role.
If we accept the gossip-press gospel that the Credit Crisis is purely
the result of greed on Wall Street, and can only be fixed by wise regulators in Washington, shame on all of us for missing the opportunity to internalize the economic externalities. It is not an academic exercise to study the risk in every system large and small. Systemic Risk is a real-world imperative for all of us.
In 2004, when I hosted the first Data Governance Forum at Mohonk Mountain House, I had three teams of IBMers developing the narrative discussions for three tracks on a common use case. The tracks were called "Infrastructure," "Policy," and "Content." The use case was "Data Supply Chain." The Forum had two days of meetings stretched across three, starting in the afternoon of the first, going until lunch of the last. On the only full day, we hosted the three breakout meetings, and each team worked to integrate their track discussions around the use case. The use case came from some business process definitions software group had developed for business component models, something to do with insurance claims processing. As it turns out, we had only one or two insurance companies at the event, and we spent more time focusing on the track headings and business process model than on the idea of a Data Supply Chain. A conference is always the product of the people and the ideas in a room, regardless of what one puts on the agenda. And at this first event, when most of us only had the most vague understanding of what "Data Governance" was or could be, business processes were familiar and Data Supply Chains were distant.
Three weeks ago, I hosted another Data Governance Forum at Mohonk Mountain House. It was again two days of content stretched across three, and again a very diverse group of people came together to produce discussions that were engaging, powerful, and divergent from what was planned on the agenda. In three breakouts on "Data," "Risks," and "Governance," the panelists and audience exchanged ideas and I ran back and forth between the breakout rooms to listen, learn, and occasionally drive the conversations. What I heard among talks about Data as an Asset, Risk Taxonomies, Governance models, and Security & Privacy, was the loud echo of Data Supply Chains reverberating off the walls. It was like an archetype of the first meeting, the temporary suspension of historical time, as if in all these years of Data Governance we had lost the original truth, like a spring disappeared under the ground, rediscovered at the source.
Every company does Data Governance today, for ill or good, with intent or dystopia. Every company also has at least one, but often many more, supply chains. These are real supply chains that may only stretch across one or two towns or six continents. Supply chains link producers, distributors, and consumers. They enable outsourcing and resourcing. And they are a fixture of modern business since business became modern in the mid-1970's. And with disciplines like Six Sigma, large multi-national supply chains enable massive economies of scale with quality control that previously were only available to the largest organizations with fixed multi-year labor contracts.
Today every organization also has large distributed Data Supply Chains. Some parts may be automated, others batch, and still others quite labor intensive. The variety and function is often the ugly mess the CIO would not like the world to see. And with seldom exception, they are not "governed" with anywhere near the same quality control and rigor as are real supply chains. When an oil company puts down a new oil terminal, well defined engineering processes are used to map out every step of production from well head to refinery. If Data Supply Chains are intended to capture the same kinds of flows with information, the methods used are mostly ad-hoc, one-off dependent upon project leader, never to be repeated again. And the result today is that companies have tens, hundreds, and even thousands of ad-hoc supply chains designed individually, some existing in their original state for decades. The disconnects create massive inefficiencies, quality control problems, and functional friction.
What every company should be doing is inventorying their existing Data Supply Chains and begin re-engineering. There should be one Data Supply Chain engineering standard. And each new real-world supply chain should include a well defined process to create a logical and efficient Data Supply Chain that monitors itself. This is not a small undertaking. But we can't create a Smarter Planet full of sensors and instruments to monitor the changes in our real world if we do not also monitor and instrument, standardize and re-purpose, the changes in our own enterprise.
Every time I speak to an IT audience, I ask "What is Data Governance?" Of course the audience has come to hear me tell them the answer if they do not already know. But I'm more interested in what my audience thinks. Invariably, the answer has words like "Policy Enforcement," "Control," and "Compliance" in it. And to me what this reflects is a desire among IT professionals to expunge chaos and confusion from their world and create order, stability, and simplicity. Perhaps this is very human, but I think our desire to transform complexity to simplicity focuses far to much energy and attention on the world "To Be," or perhaps even on the world "Never-To-Be."
I think we need to spend more time focusing on the world "As Is," the one with dirty, grimy, confusing, and complex Data Supply Chains that are not yet instrumented, monitored, or in any way Smart. It is this world that needs the bright white light of assessment, discussion, policy, implementation, audit, and dynamic steering. This dark and dishonorable world "As Is" is the past most of our Data Governance programs struggle to change in the present with business plan funding for the future. It needs new methods that monitor the information flowing through its electronic veins, real-time auditing of the tools that are used to change it, and brand new business intelligence solutions that analyze past performance, compare them to current conditions, and predict blockages and failures.
In 2009, at the Mohonk Mountain House, back in the place where it all began, surrounded by 52 Data Governance Thought Leaders, I saw again the source that we mistook all these years - Data Governance is a quality control discipline for the Data Supply Chain.
Fix the world that is.