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Enterprise Data World attendees talk about data governance issues and the need to align data management efforts with important business processes.

The floor of the recent Enterprise Data World conference in Chicago was buzzing with talk about the best ways to set up an enterprise information management (EIM) program and the need for organizations to align data management efforts with important business processes.

Cara Rosenthal and Varsha Patel, two data architects with Verizon Wireless in New Jersey, were at the conference looking for tips and advice on the best ways to set up a comprehensive EIM program.

Conference speakers pointed out that the sometimes difficult process of developing a rapport between business and IT can hinder data governance and EIM initiatives, but Rosenthal and Patel said that won't be a problem at their company.

"We work really closely with our businesspeople, so we may be different in the sense that we've developed a rapport over the years," Rosenthal said. "We know who owns the information."

Getting executive buy-in for a large-scale EIM initiative is a more difficult issue, the pair said. But a conference session on avoiding EIM mistakes proved helpful in that regard.

"You have to show [executives] that the focus is on the business [and] what the advantages are for the business," Patel said. "I think that's the key."

Conference speaker Zohar Swaine agreed. Swaine, the managing director of the institutional strategy and product organization at TD Ameritrade Institutional in Jersey City, N.J., said business executives want to understand how data management initiatives will reduce costs or increase revenue.

"What they ultimately care about is, How are you impacting revenues? How are you impacting expenses? What are you doing to client satisfaction," he said. "It's critical that folks who are involved in data governance and architecture start concerning themselves a lot more, first and foremost, with what [the] key decisions that need to be made, and then working backwards from that and conquering the data challenges from there."

Forrester Research Inc. analyst Rob Karel's keynote presentation focused on process data management, an approach to data management that stresses the need for technologists and business process specialists to work more closely together. But unlike the team at Verizon Wireless, most organizations have a difficult time getting business and IT to communicate effectively, according to one conference attendee.

"I have a lot of empathy for the experience of technical workers because they tend to be deeply misunderstood. Their work is hard to explain, and often they're not very good at explaining it," said Jaime Fitzgerald, the founder and president of Fitzgerald Analytics Inc., a New York-based consulting firm. "They are very smart people, very hard working and they often spend a lifetime feeling misunderstood."

While the relationship between business and IT should be a two-way street, Fitzgerald said it's a smart idea for technology workers to open the dialogue and make an effort to gain a strong understanding of key business drivers. What's the incentive?

"For the technical guy, the reward would be career bliss," he said. "It puts you on a faster track because you perform better. It allows you to dedicate your work to the work that matters."

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