I have this belief that understanding how to manage time is an essential task of Enterprise Architecture but oddly this is a principle that isn't spoken about much, if at all. Oddly some Enterprise Architecture software tools only seem to provide time management tools for software support life cycles. Hence a previous post that went in some way to start the debate with a mindmap to capture and categorise the elements that Enterprise Architecture would be interested in.
After reviewing this mindmap it became apparent to me that allot of data has a life. Take for example financially data, it has to be kept for x number of years then archived and/or deleted.
If it is lucky enough to get archived the data format that it is held in is going to get old and as technology moves on at a pace we soon won't have the equipment available to read it. But who cares about old data? Well actually as any historian will tells you, everyone should! Data held in electronic formats is the equivalent of ledgers and manuals written out by hand, printed or typed in previous times that provided a valuable history allowing reviews to re-examine what was going on so lessons could be learnt and history, in effect, didn't have the opportunity of repeat itself as previous mistakes made could be avoided in future.
Take for example the current 'Credit Crunch', could we better understand more about the lead up to previous economic down-turns if we had access to more data from those times than just the summaries and analysis performed at the time without the benefit of using the knowledge and tools we have now? Yes, this way we could put in better economic markers allowing a greater degree of fine-tuning and less likely to lose large amounts of money on a bad idea constantly hidden, because it take such a long time to reveal itself and kicking us up the butt.
So old electronic data siting on a tape real or floppy disk in a store-cupboard is a waste as it provides insight into your organisations history, how did it get to where it got to today? What mistakes did it make? What did it do very right? All this information is more than just useful to historians but can actually become a handy revenue stream as Analysis companies will pay good money to write case-studies and books about what your organisation did right which they can package up and sell that doesn't do your business reputation any harm whatsoever, all helping the share-price. Also allows you to discover if faltering area of your business every did work right allowing you to play back to when it started going wrong. Also when mistakes are made with more access to more data won't it be easier to spot trends?
With data storage being so ridiculously cheap it could be well worth dusting off that old media and loading and transforming it into something that can be used. Yes, this all will take time and where exactly is the ROI? Well, I think this will actually be an easy sell as many friends that work in finance have spoke to me that they wished they still had access to old data, so I don't think this will be a hard fight.
I believe that data should never be deleted and if it is archived will then it should be into systems where it can easily be retrieved that are kept up to date, invested in and brought forward.
The fly in the ointment is software vendors and their constant games to provide some kind of lock-in or incentive to upgrade. These tactics will effect the ability to retrieve historical data so we must look to either taking matters into our own hands and transforming data to vendor neutral data formats or avoid software vendors that use proprietary data formats all-together. We need to pick our vendors wisely and put format neutrality into our 'must-have' requirements rather than 'nice-to-have'.
When you think about this, it is a serious issue, an elephant in the room that no-one sees.