In my last post, I touched upon Master Data Sources. This time I want to expand on that concept to write about how data can be controlled and managed, and why.

When we talk about systems, a HR system for example, the people responsible to answer any questions in relation to the data it contains are those in the HR Department.

They add new staff to the system, manage changes of names, addresses, phone numbers and they even remove staff after a period. The HR Department can be termed as the ‘Data Marshal’ for the HR data contained in the HR system.

However, if we look at a Student Records system, the picture is less clear. In the first instance, a student may get into the system through an application or enquiry. In some institutions, this could be a separate system. If a student then enrols it may become something the Student Records Department manages - even adding students who have no previous record.

More and more institutions are letting students update phone numbers and addresses themselves. Exam data may also be held in the system, this being managed by yet another department.

There is no single department we can point to and say they are the ‘Data Marshal’ for the Student Records system. Some will argue that the owner of the system (by ownership I mean the ability to change and add to the data) is always clear, and that a department such as Student Records holds that responsibility. However, ownership of a system and its data are two separate things - I can own the Student Record itself, but ownership of the phone number (for example) may be shared between just me and the student.

For a Student Records system, we must carefully record each data item, breaking that down to contact details, phone number and address. For each of these we must identify who can add or change them - these are our ‘Data Marshals’. It’s also worth identifying the systems where this data is shown and updatable.

When we know the details of how each piece of data can be changed and by whom, we can begin to:

  • question if this is acceptable,
  • look at where the data can be accessed and by whom,
  • determine the source of each piece of data and look for inconsistencies, for example, a lecturer is told that a student has changed their email and they update their system to ensure the student receives their emails from now on – we need to know how this affects other systems.