DHS cost model shows benefit of data architecting

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Data architecting has a verifiable although delayed financial benefit, says a case study produced by the Homeland Security Department's office of chief information officer.

An August 2012 unclassified study summary (.pdf), provided on condition of anonymity, says preliminary results made with an activity-based cost model show a return on investment of $5.8 for every $1 invested into data standardization.

The case study examined a 2-decade-old system used heavily by 280 daily users in which the data resided "in a black box" and for which there was no documentation. After a period of 4.7 years, costs of data architecting will break even, the study found. Multiple benefits, such as less time spent on data cleanup, reduced likelihood of system modernization failures, fewer interfaces, and higher field user productivity (who likewise will spend less time on data error correction or manually entering data multiple times) combine to provide a benefit-to-cost ratio of 5.8, the summary also says.

Data architects often face a perception that standardization work is a cost and not a benefit, "a chore that slows down the project," the summary says. The fact that benefits "are commingled and delayed" has also proved an obstacle.

The model described by the study--dubbed the Data Management Mathematical Model, or VD3M--seeks to overcome that perception by calculating a total cost of data that takes into account factors such as employee hours spent on data management and projected future expenses, as well as capital expenditures. Executing the model requires interviewing key program management office personnel.

It is "better to pay now than pay later" for data management, the summary adds.

For more:
- download the VD3M presentation (pdf)

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