Do politics and identity management mix?

* Using politics to get the data owners on your side

We're currently looking at the big three no-nos of polite conversation and IT projects - sex, religion and politics. Today it's the turn of politics.

While there can be many kinds of political battles, I want to focus on the "turf wars" that take place. Issues of political ideology, for example, are covered under the standard "religion" issue.

Turf wars are especially abundant when dealing with identity issues. After all, most identity information is simply data. Although it's organized around particular identifiers it's still simply data. The problem is we're trying to present a unified view of that data that crosses departmental, organizational and jurisdictional lines. This leads to the two major issues in the political realm. The first is data ownership within the organization and the second is the rules and regulations of the countries, states, provinces and cities in which our enterprises operate. The second issue is, surprisingly, the easiest to handle.

Rules and regulations are easier to handle precisely because they're codified and standardized. You can find literature discussing implementations, templates to use for organizing data and products that conform to the regulations. You also should have no trouble with these implementations since you can - every step of the way - point out to your management that failure to comply means fines or jail time.

Dealing with data ownership within the organization is tougher. Many people equate the amount of data they control with their position within the enterprise - the more you have the more important you are. They also perceive that allowing you (or anyone else) direct access to read "their" data diminishes their standing. And that's only if you want "read-only" access! Say you want the ability to modify (or add to) their data and all sorts of red flags are raised. The reality is that even within organizations people in one department don't trust the abilities or motives of people in the other. Consider, for example, how you feel about finance or marketing.

There is no easy way to overcome the personal political issues. Brute force rarely works. That is, getting top management to issue edicts about cooperation simply leads to more subtle forms of foot dragging and even sabotage. It is important to get the data owners on your side. Make sure they understand that they will still be the authoritative source of the data. Get upper management to issue edicts to that effect. Let them know that you will work closely with them to develop hard and fast rules for the use, maintenance, creation and deletion of the data. There's no way around it, only diplomacy will work. That, plus I've found that determining the likes and tastes of the person involved - leading to some minor, discrete, types of bribery - can go a long way!

Drop me a note about any ways you've found to overcome the sex, religion and politics issues and I'll share them in some future newsletters.

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