Most enterprises in the world function without formal Enterprise, Solutions, Business, or Data and Information Architecture organizations. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from an organization that provides at least some of these functions. One such function is Enterprise Inventory Management.
Enterprise inventories are at the heart of, both, Business and IT governance
To be clear, this article is not about vertical data in your enterprise (e.g. Customer Data). It is more about the data generated within the enterprise (some of it outside the enterprise) that ties directly to your operations. Examples include but are not limited to: Applications, Business Entities, Capabilities, Databases, Human Resources, Products, Organizations, Servers, Services, Software, Vendors, etc.). You’ll note that the Data and Information Types go across the business and IT.
Note: You can read more about and download the IF4IT Records Management Control Grid, which discusses these data types in greater detail. You can see an interactive example of an Enterprise Data Inventory online at the NOUNZ Master Catalog example.
Have clear data types with clearly accountable owners
Given that most data comes from federated sources (e.g. Databases from the DB team; People and Organizations from the HR team; Laptops from the Laptop engineering team, etc.), consider that each source should have a named and accountable Organization (w/ Primary and Secondary Contacts) that is committed to maintaining and providing their inventories. You will have a nightmare trying to collect and manage such data if the people doing the work in these spaces don’t know that they’re on the hook for maintaining and delivering such inventories. For example, there should be one person who is responsible for collecting and managing information about all Databases (i.e. the Database Inventory). Note: You’d be amazed at how many people create things in the enterprise and don’t add those things to a master inventory of what got created.
Use an Architecture Organization to manage enterprise data and information
One group will have to perform Command, Control and Communications (C3) across all data sources, ensuring enterprise-wide coordination/orchestration of data types and the attributes that need to be tracked for each type. This is usually a group that has enterprise-wide responsibilities. For many organizations, this group is, more often than not, an Architecture organization. There really are no other IT organizations that perform work which spans across the enterprise. This is a strong example of where having an Architecture Organization can help you coordinate, perform and govern C3 functions, across the entire enterprise.
This organization will also be accountable for “collecting, cleansing, curating, combining and governing” the data. Think: “Who manages the master list of all Data and Information Types, including all attributes, across all service organizations in the enterprise?” This is usually someone that understands Enterprise Information Architecture and who has been granted the authority to manage all this data, across the enterprise.
Also, consider that an Architecture Organization can be used to manage “abstract” data types that cannot be auto-discovered and that you’ll need for your CMDB (e.g. Applications, Application Modules, Business Services, Environments, etc.). You can see and explore examples of, both, CI Types and CI Attributes in NOUNZ Digital Library.
Benefits of Enterprise Data Inventory Management
Having and proactively managing these Enterprise Data Inventories, done correctly, will yield significant benefits for your enterprise.
A few examples of technical benefits include the simplification of work necessary to develop and deploy Taxonomies for Content Management Systems (CMSs), to perform Architecture Modeling, and for building out a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Having such inventories is also the very foundation for performing IT Governance work. You cannot govern what you cannot see and the details of what you need to see are in the minutia of your inventories.
A few business benefits of having and proactively managing such data inventories include faster and more cost effective Incident Triage & Escalation, Impact Analysis, Change Management, and Strategy Development.
One of the biggest benefits is Enterprise Reporting to support, both, Business and IT governance. You can’t create reports and dashboards if you don’t have the inventory details to score against.