Systems Thinking

Peter Senge talks about Systems Thinking in his book The Fifth Discipline. His point is that businesses tend to apply simplistic frameworks across complex systems (i.e. your business) and fail to see an organization as a dynamic process.    The basic idea is that if you change one part of a system without understanding the whole of the system, the change will be replete with unintended consequences.   Thinking of data in terms of a dynamic process will lead to better data quality.   Typically, data is looked at to satisfy the immediate need of a particular part of the business.  With data, it’s important to think globally about data and understand what impact data changes in one part of the business will have on the business as a whole.

In my last post, Six Sigma, Business Intelligence and Data,   I spoke about utilizing the Six Sigma DMAIC process for managing data across the Enterprise.  The idea is not to go to the level of detail required of a successful Six Sigma project.  Instead, it is to look holistically at how data is handled across the Enterprise and put the data in the context of the business.  Data is first collected when we encounter a customer and need to store data about that customer.  Data is then consumed when we report our results or analyze performance.

The process of analyzing performance is usually done in your Business Intelligence area against a Data Warehouse or data stored in disparate data stores.   Why not leverage the analysis work done in Business Intelligence to improve how the Enterprise collects data in the first place?  This provides a valuable feedback loop in the lifecycle of data. Both the collection of the data and consumption of the data is done in the context of the business.  It seems reasonable that thinking across the Enterprise with DMAIC can leverage the time and money already being spent on managing your data and get much better results.

Looking at the life cycle of data, why not ensure the business meaning is consistent on both the data collection and consumption side?    The Enterprise is a complex, dynamic process.  The data is just as complex, it’s important to keep the Enterprise in mind when managing the data about the business.

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