Penn Computing
Computing Menu Computing A-Z
Computing Home Information Systems & Computing Penn

Data Administration Charter

Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing University of Pennsylvania

  • Mission. The Office of Data Administration manages data as a University resource so members of the Penn community have the information they need, when they need it, and in the form in which they need it to do their jobs.
  • University Data. Just as other offices manage the University resources of facilities, money, and people, Data Administration manages the resource of University data. "University data" is data relevant to planning, managing, operating, auditing, and communicating University administrative activities.

Objectives. Four objectives drive the Office of Data Administration:
  1. Improve the quality of the data, including accuracy, timeliness, and definition.
  2. Improve the security of the data, including confidentiality and protection from loss.
  3. Improve ease of access, assuring that data is easily located, easily accessed once located, and that people have enough information about the data to understand what they have found.
  4. Reduce the redundancy of the data. Sharing data--rather than replicating it in multiple applications and moving it back and forth among those applications--is a prerequisite for flexible, cost- effective systems that yield accurate, timely information.

  • Clients. The clients of Data Administration are faculty and administrative staff--including system developers, institutional researchers, and others who access data for management decision making, as well as senior management and other non-technical clients who reap the benefit of those efforts.
  • Specific Functions. Specific functions of the Office of Data Administration focus on data architecture as a framework for decision making, the creation of a common language of standards, the arbitration and negotiation of agreements, and a commitment to education and advocacy, and the creation of computer security programs to assist in the protection of computer resources.

    • Data principles and models. With University input, Data Administration develops a data architecture--comprising principles and models--to serve as a framework for technological decision-making. Data principles make explicit Penn's values, assumptions, and objectives about data. One crucial principle, for example, is that data should be organized to meet strategic and management needs as well as the needs of the transactional processes that manipulate the data. Such principles allow technological initiatives to be driven by Penn's strategic values and needs rather than by technology itself.
    • Data models are schematic representations of data categories and the relationships among them. Data models help answer--or sometimes help pose--questions like these: What are the categories of data? Who needs access? Who should serve as stewards? Where should data reside and flow? Models at the enteprise level are developed by Data Administration itself. For more detailed models focused on specific business areas, Data Administration develops and enforces standards aimed at fitting the pieces to the whole and consults to individual business areas in the development and use of the more narrowly focused models.
    • Data standards. With the data architecture as a guide, Data Administration works with the University community to develop standards for data integrity, integration, definition, security, and access. Data Administration educates the University community about the need for data standards, trains and consults on their implementation and use, and monitors compliance. For ISC development efforts, Data Administration exercises data-related sign-off authority. For decentralized development efforts--where Data Administration's authority is less direct--the focus is education, training, and consultation.
    • The University community--not just the Office of Data Administration-- bears responsibility for University data. Data Administration works with the community to define a campus-wide structure of data stewardship with explicit rights and duties.
    • Forum for arbitration and consensus-building. Data Administration facilitates and coordinates University-wide agreement on data issues that require consensus or negotiation, for example, the definition and stewardship of the data category "department," which is used differently in the academic and financial arenas. Documentation and dissemination of these agreements is crucial. In Penn's decentralized computing environment, not all data decisions are under the control of the Data Administrator. The Data Administrator has an obligation, however, to try to bring the right people to the table, to facilitate agreements, and to make explicit the compromises reached.
    • Education and advocacy. Data Administration serves as advocate to senior management and the Penn community at large for the concept of data as a critical resource. With advocacy comes the responsibility to educate these constituencies about data issues.
    • Security programs. Data Administration assists with the creation of security programs which improves the protection of computer resources and associated information assets against accidental or unauthorized modification, destruction or disclosure. This includes business continuity planning with schools and departments, education and awareness programs, assisting with with the investigation of security incidents, recommending and reviewing data security software, and assisting with computer security policies.

  • Primary tool--data dictionary/ encyclopedia. The Office of Data Administration administers the University data dictionary/ encyclopedia-- developing standards, training the University community in their use, and monitoring compliance.
  • The data dictionary/ encyclopedia is critical to each data administration function. Not only does the dictionary/ encyclopedia inventory the data resource so people know where to find the data and what it means once they find it, but the tool should serve as a repository for the principles and models that comprise the data architecture as well as a repository for negotiated data agreements. Penn's current University data dictionary does not meet all these needs. The Office of Data Administration will identify requirements, select, and implement a University dictionary/encyclopedia and develop standards and procedures for the new tool.

Critical Success Factors. These factors are particularly critical to the success of the Data Administration organization:
  1. Authority as well as responsibility for enforcing standards.
  2. The active support of senior management.
  3. The ability to measure data quality, security, and ease of access.
  4. A powerful, flexible data dictionary/ encyclopedia.
  5. The participation of data stakeholders in Penn's decentralized computing environment.
  6. An understanding of clients' needs and a determination to meet those needs.

[ Data Administration ]

Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
Comments & Questions

University of Pennsylvania Penn Computing University of Pennsylvania Information Systems & Computing (ISC)
Information Systems and Computing, University of Pennsylvania