Reminded Again, Narrow Focus Leads To Failure Every Time. Why do Some Data Projects Never Make It?

toronto
In 1993, an incident occurred in the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower that caught national attention, enough so that it made the infamous “Darwin Awards”. A lawyer, in an attempt to demonstrate the safety and strength of the building’s windows to visiting law students, crashed through a pane of glass with his shoulder and fell 24 floors to his death. Maybe the Glass did not break but it pulled off the wall. 
 
The lawyer made a classic mistake, he had focused on one specific thing to the exclusion of the big picture. If he had taken a look at his hypothesis from a wider angle, he might have considered the numerous other factors  that may have contributed to his doomed demonstration – the bond between the glass and the frame,  the yielding effect of material after repeated tests, or simply the view of the courtyard below (the high risk should it fail) might have been enough to make him reconsider his “leap of logic”. He focused on a specific item and ignored the other factors. 
 
Such a narrowed focus is equally risky to an information management project, or any project really. Although we are getting better we often focus on one thing: technology implementation and ignore other aspects.
From my experience, many factors contribute to the success or failure of information management in Oil & Gas projects. People, technology, processes, legacy data, Integration, a company’s culture, operational model, infrastructure, time constraints, or external influences such as vendors and partners, just to name a few. Each has a degree of influence on the project, but rarely will they cause the demise of the project – unless they are ignored! The key to success in any project is the consideration of all aspects, and an assessment of the risks they impose, prior to spending millions.
As an example, let’s look at survey data. How would you manage that data?
Often, companies focus on two elements:
  • Finding the technology to host the data
  • Migration of the data to the new solution
Success is declared at the end of these two steps, but two years down the road, the business has not embraced the solution, or worse yet, they continue to see incomplete surveys, a problem the new technology was supposed to solve. Failure, in this case, is less abrupt than an appointment with the Toronto Dominion Courtyard, but it is failure nonetheless.
 
More often than not, projects like the one above fail to take into consideration the other aspects that will keep data quality intact.
Even more often, these projects fail to consider external factors such as data acquisition vendors. These external vendors have their own processes and formats. If your project ignores our increasingly integrated world, and cannot cooperate with the processes, technology, and data formats of key external vendors and business partners, your project will yield very limited results and will not be sustainable. 

To achieve sustainable success in data management projects or any projects for that matter, it is necessary to consider the context surrounding the project, not just the specifics. Without this context, like the unfortunate lawyer, your project too can look forward to a rather significant fall.

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