photograph: VHS Tape

VHS Tech Dependency

One of my favorite shows of all time is the X-Files. When the series first aired in the early 1990’s, I literally used to stop what I was doing to sit down and watch the show on Friday night and eventually Sunday nights when it got bumped to the weekend. The reality of the situation was that if you didn’t watch it when it was broadcast or if you didn’t have a VCR, you were out of luck. If we were going to be out of town, we would dig out a VHS tape, pop it in the VCR, and use the corded remote to program the recording of the show. No re-broadcasts, no DVR, no on-demand.

I was thinking about this recently as I was watching the new X-Files from this year. During the episode, the Smoking Man said that technology is the religion of the masses. Of course, it’s taken from Karl Marx and his famous quote regarding religion being the opium of the masses. It highlights how technology is replacing the need to confront the reality of our lives and leaves us unable to think for ourselves.

Technology is atrophying our ability and necessity to think. There’re way too many videos of people walking into streets and fountains while looking at their phone. Why be bothered with creating a shopping list when your smart refrigerator can tell you what you need. I know people who are so dependent on map applications that they can’t find their way around their home town without using turn-by-turn navigation on their smartphone. We now must have Public Service Announcements to remind people not to text and drive.

Now don’t get me wrong. Technology is a fantastic enabler of breakthroughs across many industries and makes our world a better and safer place to live. It provides incredible insights into our world and will continue to shape us as a society. It can also be cool if you like cat videos or want to build a box fort.

There is no “set it and forget it” in Data Governance.

What does all this have to do with Data Governance? Many companies believe that a piece of technology empowers their data governance practice. They fall under the illusion that the shiny technology object will solve their issues rather than confronting the reality of the data at their organization by doing the hard work. A data quality tool will not provide insights to the company unless there is first a data quality framework and an understanding of the company’s data by its team.

Data as a corporate asset, or the monetization of data, is not created by technology. It is created by rolling up your sleeves and doing the work of understanding your company’s data and the processes it enables. Only then can you apply technology effectively.

Don’t cheat yourself or your company by being overly dependent or distracted by technology in all aspects of your life. Learn how to read a map. Understand how poor data quality impacts business outcomes. Take a vacation and learn how to ski. I don’t care if you walk into a fountain but please do not text and drive.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me as I need to watch this week’s episode of the X-Files on demand. Who can be bothered to program their DVR? At least the remote doesn’t have a cord.