Apr 6 ’11

Compliance Options: Anyone Up for Basketball?

by Editor in z/Journal

Compliance options is all about the compromises that take place when business information needs meet IT architectures, standards, and constraints. Rather than focusing on the "T" in "IT," it focuses on the "I"—information-related rules, choices, and controls. Its goal is to help you avoid being bullied by operational stakeholders or trumped by the "compliance card" as you negotiate approaches for dealing with data and information during projects and processes.

"Boring!" That’s what my late brother, Reese, might have said after reading that first paragraph. He was my greatest cheerleader and best critic for years. "Wouldn’t it help if you made this concept real, instead of abstract?" he frequently asked me.

And the answer was always yes. So, let’s try again.

Picture a circle with the letter B in it. That’s the Business Zone, where your stakeholders conduct business activities. To the right of it, picture a circle containing the letters IT. Now overlap the two circles, forming a Venn diagram. The place in the middle should have an I in it. That’s the place where the business team and the mainframe team meet to score points by shooting information through hoops.

But this game is more confusing than basketball. The business and technology teams are actually playing together, not against each other. So the objective of every game should be to employ teamwork to score the highest number of points possible. But not everyone seems to understand this.

Also, the scoring system is a bit tricky. The court has dozens of hoops, with the ones near the middle of the court labeled O (for operations), A (for analytics), or C (for compliance). The ones at the ends are labeled OAC:

Intellectually, the best game strategy is obvious. All the players should play together to efficiently score as many three-pointers as possible. But that’s not what usually happens. What gets in the way?

First, some of the players get bonuses on top of their base salaries. Their bonuses are based on their individual scores as shooters. They’ve done the math; sometimes it’s better for them to score as often as they can, even at the expense of the final team score.

Members of the Operations Booster Club sit near the O-hoops. They cheer for players to dunk the ball in those hoops, and every quarter, they give bonuses to the top O-scorers.

The coaches have everyone playing in zones. Even if a player positioned under an O hoop hasn’t scored enough to earn a bonus, it’s hard to ignore the Operations crowd chanting, “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”

The Analytics Booster Club is smaller and quieter. But they’re fiercely determined to make the playoffs and to win them. They’ve made sure that all the players understand the impact of low A-scores on the team’s future. They don’t yell the way O-fans do. But any player who passes the ball instead of taking an easy A-shot will hear from them later—unless, of course, the shot not taken is quickly followed by a three-pointer.

And then there’s the 90-second rule. Every 90 seconds, a bell rings. Whoever has the ball has to attempt a compliance shot. They can go for a one-pointer in a C-hoop, or a three-pointer. Unlike O-shots and A-shots, though, missed C-shots cost the team a point. The ringing of that compliance bell means someone’s facing a tough decision: Should they aim for a C-hoop or an OAC-hoop?

I can just imagine Reese nodding in approval. "Now that makes it real!" he might say. "Add a few extra hoops for Windows points and Internet points, just to make it a bit more confusing. And make sure the O Club pays bonuses to some of the coaches, too. Now there’s a game I’d pay to see!"

Me, too.

The only problem is that I’m too busy to watch games, since I’m generally playing, coaching, or refereeing. And I don’t have as much time as I’d like to sketch out winning plays. But it’s OK; we have you for that. Right?

See you on the court.