Imagine my surprise at finding an op-ed piece in Information Management flogging topic maps!
Karen Heath writes in: Is it Really Possible to Achieve a Single Version of Truth?:
There is a pervasive belief that a single version of truth–eliminating data siloes by consolidating all enterprise data in a consistent, non-redundant form – remains the technology-equivalent to the Holy Grail. And, the advent of big data is making it even harder to realize. However, even though SVOT is difficult or impossible to achieve today, beginning the journey is still a worthwhile business goal.
The road to SVOT is paved with very good intentions. SVOT has provided the major justification over the past 20 years for building enterprise data warehouses, and billions of dollars have been spent on relational databases, ETL tools and BI technologies. Millions of resource hours have been expended in construction and maintenance of these platforms, yet no organization is able to achieve SVOT on a sustained basis. Why? Because new data sources, either sanctioned or rogue, are continually being introduced, and existing data is subject to decay of quality over time. As much as 25 percent of customer demographic data, including name, address, contact info, and marital status changes every year. Also, today’s data is more dispersed and distributed and even “bigger” (volume, variety, velocity) than it has ever been.
Karen does a brief overview of why so many SVOT projects have failed (think lack of imagination and insight for starters) but then concludes:
As soon as MDM and DG are recognized as having equal standing with other programs in terms of funding and staffing, real progress can be made toward realization of a sustained SVOT. It takes enlightened management and a committed workforce to understand that successful MDM and DG programs are typically multi-year endeavors that require a significant commitment to of people, processes and technology. MDM and DG are not something that organizations should undertake with a big-bang approach, assuming that there is a simple end to a single project. SVOT is no longer dependent on all data being consolidated into a single physical platform. With effective DG, a federated architecture and robust semantic layer can support a multi-layer, multi-location, multi-product organization that provides its business users the sustained SVOT. That is the reward. (emphasis added)
In case you aren’t “in the know,” DG – data governance, MDM – master data management, SVOT – single version of truth.
The bolded line about the “robust semantic layer” is obviously something topic maps can do quite well. But that’s not where I saw the topic map ad.
I saw the topic map ad being highlighted by:
As soon as MDM and DG are recognized as having equal standing with other programs in terms of funding and staffing
Because that’s never going to happen.
And why should it? GM for example has legendary data management issues but their primary business, MDM and DG people to one side, is making and financing automobiles. They could divert enormous resources to obtain an across the board SVOT but why?
Rather than across the board SVOT, GM is going to want a more selective, a MVOT (My Version Of Truth) application. So it can be applied where it returns the greatest ROI for the investment.
With topic maps as “a federated architecture and robust semantic layer [to] support a multi-layer, multi-location, multi-product organization,” then accounting can have its MVOT, production its MVOT, shipping its MVOT, management its MVOT, regulators their MVOT.
Given the choice between a Single Version Of Truth and your My Version Of Truth, which one would you choose?
That’s what I thought.
PS: Topics maps can also present a SVOT, just in case its advocates come around.