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Citi’s Bottega Pitches Office of Data Management as Solution to EDM Organisational Challenge

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Enterprise data management (EDM) is “real and here”, but is there enough understanding of how to organise EDM programmes within firms to ensure they can be successful at it? This was the key question raised by John Bottega, chief data officer at Citi Markets & Banking, during his now regular keynote slot at FIMA, which took place in London earlier this month.

The good news is that “more than ever the importance and the impact of data management are understood”, he told delegates. “The business gets it, and practitioners are more skilled at it. We know how to acquire data . We know how to interpret it. We have all sorts of advanced database technologies and systems to capture it. And we have better ways to deliver it.”

But the $64 million question for him is, “Do we know how to organise, align, position and include the right stakeholders to ensure we are successful at data management?” He warned that “trying to change the organisational structures in your companies is not an easy task”.

Indicative of firms’ organisational issues when it comes to EDM is the variety of internal departments being created to spearhead EDM efforts, Bottega suggested. “And the titles? We are now called global heads of market data, executive directors of reference data solutions, global heads of data management services… and CDOs,” he added (saying he particularly liked the last one). “How many different names do we have for CIO? Why do we have so many different names for people who manage data? I’ve never quite figured it out. Hopefully by FIMA 2010 we’ll all have the same title.”

Bottega reckoned that despite all the attention EDM has received, the industry as a whole still had “no consensus” about how it should organise itself to manage this vital data asset. So who owns the data management problem, and what is the optimum operating model for it?

The ownership issue is, Bottega said, clouded by siloed business divisions within firms and the fact that IT teams have traditionally been associated closely with each specific business line. This alignment, incorrect in his view, has led to what he referred to as “isolated islands” of data, making the data management challenge very difficult. So far, so very familiar.

He added, however, that typically the bonus culture within firms actually rewards this “bad behaviour”. Citi has initiated a programme to reward internal operations staff for coming forward to reveal bad processes and provide information that could improve matters.

The bottom line in most firms remains, though, “that in the absence of a clear enterprise solution, nobody owns the data management problem”, he suggested. This means there is “no co-operation, no standards, no data policy and no target date to aspire to”.

The Citi executive argued that what is required is a closer alignment between business, technology and operations – again, not rocket science. His solution – the formation of an Office of Data Management (ODM). “In my opinion, the ODM is the missing link in those three strings – the business, operations and technology – and is rather akin to the operational glue that brings the groups together,” he said. “The ODM assumes the accountability of the data management challenge. And it’s not the ownership of the data that is the problem but the ownership of the problem. So, assume the role of change agent.” The ODM also is or at least should be responsible for providing “vision” and be responsible for running data management as a business.

Budget is also a key matter to be addressed, but, stressed Bottega, it needs to be looked at in three tiers. Tier one is the strategic budget. “Ensure also that you have the money for the tactical – the business as usual activities,” he said. “The third tier that many firms miss out is the practical,” he added. “Make sure you have the money to support the business on its immediate short-term needs. This builds credibility and it builds confidence. It allows you to run your strategic and allows you to keep your tactical operating.”

On the familiar theme of the difficulty of building a business case for data management, Bottega said one challenge is translating the benefit of a particular change or approach in one area across the entire organisation. One approach, he suggested, is taking a slice of your business and accurately sizing up the benefits. “Take a slice of the benefits in your particular operating environment, for example reducing trade fails for international settlements – and don’t try to look at trade fails across all of the other areas. Then demonstrate that benefit, quantify it and extrapolate that benefit across all of the other areas.”

On the question of ownership of the data management problem, Bottega said: “Business should become the driver of data management and they should own the ‘book of work’. This is a change in many firms, and a change that we (Citi) have worked hard to bring forward. We’ve actually taken the book of work out of technology’s hands and given it to the business. Technology then becomes the ‘enabler’, while the business becomes the driver of requirements.”

Citi has created a dedicated role – the business data officer – to ensure that within business lines there is someone responsible for the demands on data.

The function of technology is to establish and promote the data management architecture. “That is their function – no one is better at it than the technologists,” said Bottega. “The business shouldn’t tell them how to do it, but they should present their business requirements and challenges. Technology then solves the architectural problem.”

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