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Written by LeRoux Meissner

Warning, this is not a blog. This is my keyboard trying to keep up with my thoughts.

I heard about this event on the radio the other day where writers get together and just sit together in a big room and start writing without stopping for anything. Anything that comes to mind, you write down. Apparently it helps with writer’s block

I tried it and only did some minor spelling/grammar editing

In one of the first DAMA meetings I sat in on, someone (I think it was Howard Diesel) said something in the line of “you can delegate responsibility, but you cannot delegate accountability”. I can’t quite remember the context or what the topic of the discussion was, but the person was talking about people and the ever present ‘Blame game’ when something goes wrong within a business or department (or even an empire). It is always the same. No one ever wants to take the blame. I immediately stopped listening and tried to imagine if this is true in other areas of life, I thought it would be quite a neat experiment to replace the humans with systems.

My layman understanding of the 2 main terms off the top of my head is:

  • Accountable – gets the praise if it works and the slap on the wrist if it doesn’t
  • Responsible – Makes it happen

Without hesitation I decided to make MDM the CEO/King/Supreme Leader (bias? Yes.). I imagined source systems being the peasants/workers/soldiers and some fancy ERPs as the aristocrats/managers/generals. You can arrange these systems as you like. It was nothing more than a thought experiment at the time.


Which systems would have which responsibilities? Which Systems are accountable for what data? And most importantly, how does a system actually ‘delegate’ responsibility to other systems? What is a good example of a system trying to ‘shift accountability’ if something goes wrong?

A good example for this scenario would be data quality. Which upstream system is accountable for data quality within an organization? Who is accountable if the downstream system’s data gets dirty? As we all know, data quality has led to the demise of many empires over the years. In fact, if Hitler had gotten better quality source data from Napoleon about Russia, his BI reports would have warned him not to attack in winter.

For your MDM to be happy, it needs clean data. Does this make it responsible for cleaning the data within MDM? Would it be held accountable for dirty master data if the source systems have low data quality? Is Napoleon responsible for the fall of the Nazis?

It seems pretty obvious to make the system accountable and responsible for its own data. It would be the easiest. Would it be effective? What is that saying about being the judge and the jury? Would this not lead to data silos popping up all over the organisations. Exactly the thing you are trying to avoid with MDM.

When systems integrate with each other, boundaries have to be laid down. I always hear the term “we use the data we get”.  Ask Adolf about that one.  He can blame Napoleon’s French technical documentation (Isn’t it all French?) about the conditions in Russia, but at the end of the day the Nazi implementation was a failure because Napoleon was unaware at the time that his notes would be used by Hitler. Therefor it is rather important to explicitly state which systems are responsible for what tasks or data. Not just the quality, but the whole life cycle. This has to be documented. Crucial. But which system is responsible for documenting it? Is the person who does the documentation (shame) responsible if bad data makes it into the system? I’m sure he/she would get some of the blame when the blame game starts

If none of this makes sense to you, don’t worry. All I’m really saying is that humans are much better at handing out responsibilities and dodging accountability than systems. So if a decision is made on which systems is responsible for certain things, document it, save it, encrypt it, copy it, put it in a safety deposit box, give another copy to your mother, because you can bet your bottom dollar that when something goes wrong in another system that integrates with your system, they will try and shift accountability to you.

Excuse all my questions, I don’t really expect anyone to answer all of them.

Also, don’t attack Russia in winter.

Also also, Napoleon didn’t really know Hitler…