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The Impact of Existing Industry Standards

"Don't swim upstream."

A new process in any organization generates enthusiasm, great ideas, and energy. Many companies have created information governance organizations with a data stewardship function that works very hard with data owners to develop business and technical data definitions—only to learn about undocumented data definitions that everyone in the organization already assumes and uses. Defining data is not only a best practice; it's one of the core reasons for having an information governance capability. However, it's important to assess what data may already be defined within the organization (usually tribal and undocumented).

In one actual situation, an ardent data steward for a Fortune 50 company intended to ask the CIO to stop an SAP Financials implementation, because the vendor wasn't using the new data-naming standards that his group had just defined! Attempting to redefine commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software or redefining generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) calculations is generally a non-starter, a waste of energy, and a good way to lose funding.

Most organizations don't make such extreme decisions as in the preceding example, but many new organizations don't take advantage of existing data standards in the organization, or they fail to start with known industry standards. For example, in the health care industry, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), a medical classification list developed by the World Health Organization, is a complex set of more than 14,400 different codes for diseases. Why would any health care organization not simply leverage ICD-10 as its standard?

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