So just what is the job of an IT department once you get past the keeping the network up and applications running stuff? I think that we can all agree that it must have something to do with the company’s data, but exactly what does that mean?
Ranjay Gulati, James Oldroyd, and Phanish Puranam are three researchers who have been studying this problem and they’ve made some interesting discoveries. They realize that IT is the source for countless reports – our job is to turn data into information that the company can take action on. However, they’ve discovered that it can be just as important that we share with the rest of the company HOW we’ve come to know something as well as WHAT we know.
Now this is the tricky part: IT needs to find ways to tell our audience the answers to their questions AND we need to tell them how we got the data and what, if any, strengths and weakness there are with that data.
If you want to get all fancy about this the word to use would be that we need to provide “metadata” with our reports. A good example of this would come from the Royal Bank of Canada.
A few years ago the bank implemented a system that when a customer was overdrawn on a check, the system would do some credit / overdraft history checking in order to determine if a courtesy overdraft should be granted.
The information on the system and the data that it used was distributed in the bank and an ATM product manger happened to read it. He realized that a similar system could be created to provide overdrafts for ATM customers. The bank spent about $100,000 to implement this new service and since then has made millions off of it.
Allowing staff to not only see the output of an IT department, but also the information on the data that was used to create that output allows more people to find ways to reapply the data in ways that you may have never thought of.
When your IT department produces reports, do they include any information on the data that they used to create the report? Has anyone ever been able to use this “metadata” to identify a new use for the data? Was that new use valuable to the company? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.