Data Strategy and Management: Making Information Accessible, Secure and Useful

In today"s increasingly globalized economy, data has become a vital business asset. So the people responsible for the processes and systems used to organize, manage and control access to information have become critical resources.

"How an organization uses its data can be the difference between average performance and competitive advantage," notes Teradata magazine. "For this reason, it is vital to have a data management strategy that focuses on the creation of accurate, consistent and transparent data content that can be integrated into the business applications and business processes."

That means it’s necessary for companies to come up with data management strategies that support their goals and objectives. With the exception of very large corporations, most organizations are struggling with the complexity surrounding data management and strategy. The area takes on even more importance for companies dealing with mergers and acquisitions, evolving market tactics and dynamic regulatory requirements.

As Teradata says, data-driven processes help companies make decisions with confidence. IT maintains the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) architecture, which provides an ¿ecosystem¿ that serves new data management processes while accommodating future needs.

It follows, then, that database managers, data/information architects, modelers, analysts and administrators are becoming increasingly crucial to firms as they attempt to get a handle on this dynamic and evolving area. Develop an expertise in this sweet spot and you could find yourself in high demand, particularly if you also develop a business sense that can help C-level executives align data with business goals.

"There’s a lot of data out there, and there are a lot of people who do programming," says Sanjay Bhandari, an independent consultant professional who works in data management. "They may know how to manipulate the data out of a system, but they are not always able to extract the business meaning of the data. That creates a gap."

Roles and Career Paths

One of the more strategic jobs in the area is that of data/information architect, who’s typically responsible for the overall design of the enterprise-wide data/information architecture. Mapped to the enterprise’s overall IT architecture, the information approach must balance the need for access against security and performance requirements. In addition, architects must anticipate needs for enterprise-wide data modeling and database designs. They may have the opportunity to take on a deeper leadership role, as the architect is the person who defines data and information architecture standards, policies and procedures. 

A person targeting this type of position – which generally requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, information systems or related field – should be knowledgeable in most aspects of designing and constructing data architectures, operational data stores and data marts.

Those who want to attain a more middle-level position could consider a job as database manager. These folks are responsible for ensuring the design, maintenance and implementation of database management systems. They should possess the technical expertise to manage the design and development of their organization’s database environment.

Data modelers serve in a more intermediate-level role, responsible for analyzing and developing complex but logical database designs, data models and relational data definitions to support the corporate and customer information systems. 

Another intermediate-level role is that of database analyst. They’re responsible not only for designing and developing database management systems, but are in charge of analyzing data requirements, application and processing architectures, data dictionaries and database plans. The job requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or a related field.

Database administrators manage and maintain all production and non-production databases and are responsible for standards and design of data storage, maintenance, access and security.

Security is taking on a more prominent role in IT operations, which is giving rise to a newer role called the database security analyst, says Noel Yuhanna, principal analyst at Forrester Research. These professionals should be well-versed in Oracle, IBM and SQL Server databases, but also understand best practices around, and the technologies used to improve, database security. The job requires a high-level understanding of the government regulations and how applications, operating systems, firewalls and networks interact.

"People have ignored database security for many years," says Yuhanna. "Typically, database administrators have other things to do. But there is a gap we started to see two years ago, and now we are seeing this role emerging in the industry. This should be a separate role and it could be a career path for any database administrator. This area continues to be important, despite the economy."

Skills and Qualities

  • Strong computer science background
  • Understanding of business goals and processes
  • Good communication skills