Bank of Montreal spends time on data governance

LAS VEGAS – Bank of Montreal’s information management strategy is a bundled approach where data governance sets the foundation for business intelligence, which in turn enables corporate performance management, the bank’s head of information governance and quality told ComputerWorld Canada.

During an interview at IBM Corp.’s Information On Demand conference in Las Vegas, Toronto-based Richard Livesley said that the bundled approach is composed of business intelligence centres of competency, data governance, and a large data warehousing construction.

“The BI centres of competency work with the businesses as they’re rolling out performance management solutions,” said Livesley. “The technologies are an enabler for the business to develop the performance management systems that they want.”

But business intelligence is reliant on good data governance, he said, especially considering regulators are increasingly wanting an enterprise view of data and assurances from the business that the data is accurately presented, said Livesley, adding that “it’s an information integrity issue as much as anything else.”

BMO’s data governance strategy is driven by a need to better serve customers as well as by regulatory compliance demands. And, said Livesley, “to get trusted information, you need to know where it comes from, what it means, and what has been done to it. You need all those things for a successful business intelligence implementation.”

From IBM’s perspective, corporate performance management essentially forms three layers within an organization. In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Peter Griffiths, Cognos’ vice-president of worldwide research and development in business intelligence and performance management, said the first layer is an “understanding layer that BI is fundamental to.”

By that, he meant organizations typically start small scale, perhaps within an individual department, where they may need to comprehend data in the context of a marketing campaign or have a desire to share financial results across business units.

“But almost always,” said Griffiths, “as you build up these areas of understanding, you need to bring in information from the other areas.” That’s where the need to optimize that understanding across the organization forms the second layer of corporate performance management as IBM sees it.

Organizations without a well-architected business intelligence strategy often accomplish this layer with multiple tools, said Griffiths. But while it makes little sense for a business to require a different telephone for every country it needs to call, Griffiths said “it’s still not crazy in today’s world to say you’ve got a different tool or different interface for information that comes from different applications.”

Many businesses find themselves in this muddle because, said Griffiths, the priority for some time has been transaction efficiency at the expense of linking that efficiency across the organization.

But driving that optimization requires redeploying assets – be they financial, human resources – and that can be an “ugly” and error-prone process involving too many spreadsheets and too much time, said Griffiths.

Organizations are beginning to realize how “they need to be able to take input from a broad range of people responsible for executing the business, bring that together with a powerful financial model, in some cases, predictive model, and use that information in pretty well near real-time to collaborate, make decisions and redeploy assets,” he said.

But once assets have been redeployed, Griffiths said level three of a corporate performance management strategy is about giving employees a holistic view of strategic change objectives across the organization by way of dashboards and decision processes that relate those strategic objectives to company initiatives.

While the Bank of Montreal’s data governance strategy is “extremely good”, according to Livesley, he did note “every organization is struggling with the data side of governance because all of that is buried.”

At any rate, the more there exists a drive for enterprise information in order to report or better serve customers, appropriate standards and controls on the data is the way to go, said Livesley.

“It’s like the plumbing of a good business intelligence solution.”

IBM’s Information on Demand conference continues on Wednesday.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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