When the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter disintegrated in space, it all came down to a data error. It would have been the first Martian weather satellite.
An investigation uncovered a navigational miscalculation. Commands from the NASA control centre had been sent in English imperial units without being converted into the metric standard. This meant that the orbiter missed its intended altitude orbit by nearly 100 kilometres. Rather than entering at the 140-150 km altitude, the $125 million spacecraft fell into Mars’ atmosphere at approximately 57 km altitude and burned up.
$125 million of technology and years of work disintegrated in space is no small loss.
But it isn’t the only loss that has come from unchecked data. A quick search will bring up story after story of businesses that missed a minus sign or typed in one too many zeros and brought enormous losses to their business.
The thing is, every business is at risk of both financial and reputational loss when it comes to making strategic business decisions with ungoverned and unchecked data. And it only takes a small mistake to start breeding distrust in the data. With distrust, the decisions cease to be based on data and those decisions, as they snowball, can lead to serious errors of judgment.
The heart of the issue
Do the following issues from NASA’s report on the failed Mars satellite sound familiar?
- The process to verify and validate certain engineering requirements and technical interfaces between some project groups, and between the project and its prime mission contractor, was inadequate.
- The systems engineering function within the project that is supposed to track and double-check all interconnected aspects of the mission was not robust enough.
- Personnel were not trained sufficiently in areas such as the relationship between the operation of the mission and its detailed navigational characteristics, or the process of filing formal anomaly reports.
Communication issues, insufficient technological infrastructure, and inadequate training for the people accessing the data. Familiar.
All data-related disasters have one thing in common: unmanaged manual processes and ungoverned data management practices.
To counter this issue, we asked BI expert Barry Devlin, a founder of the data warehousing industry, to share his in-depth understanding of BI data governance.
He has written a clear and detailed paper on the three cornerstones of BI data governance that are essential to making successful business decisions with trusted data. You can download Devlin’s insights here.
The secret of making successful business decisions: BI data governance
Barry Devlin reveals the key to implementing robust governance as 1) decision making as a process, 2) a single, integrated platform, and 3) an adaptive decision cycle.
This sounds overly simplistic, but take a read of the white paper and you’ll begin to see the wisdom in the fundamental principles that are so frequently overlooked. There is a wealth of experience in Devlin’s paper. 30 years of IT experience, including 20 years as an IBM Distinguished Engineer, give him a depth of understanding both the human and technology sides of BI and data governance that few others have.
Devlin understands the frustration of seeing the spirals of arguments over ‘My figures are better than yours’ brought about by spreadsheets continue despite new BI tools. Too often, BI tools alone don’t supply the solution. Devlin puts his finger on the pulse and carefully lays out, step-by-step, the approach you need to take to lay the foundations of solid BI data governance – the answer to divergent figures on the same subject. Without governance, you can’t be sure the business is making its strategic decisions based on trustworthy data. And if the foundation of their decisions is shaky, the integrity of their decisions will be too.
Download Barry Devlin’s white paper ‘BI Data Governance’ to discover the secret of successful business decision making.