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Business Beware! Corporate IT Is “Fixing” YOUR Data

It is troublesome to me to repeatedly get into conversations with IT managers who want to fix data “for the sake of fixing it”.  While this is presumably increasingly rare, due to my department’s role, we probably see a higher occurrence than the normal software vendor employee.  Given that, please excuse the inflammatory title of this post.

Nevertheless, once the deal is done, we find increasingly fewer of these instances, yet still enough, as the average implementation consultant or developer cares about this aspect even less.  A few months ago a petrochemical firm’s G&G IT team lead told me that he does not believe that data quality improvements can or should be measured.  He also said, “if we need another application, we buy it.  End of story.”  Good for software vendors, I thought, but in most organizations $1M here or there do not lay around leisurely plus decision makers want to see the – dare I say it – ROI.

This is not what a business - IT relationship should feel like
This is not what a business – IT relationship should feel like

However, IT and business leaders should take note that a misalignment due to lack OR disregard of communication is a critical success factor.  If the business does not get what it needs and wants AND it differs what Corporate IT is envisioning and working on – and this is what I am talking about here – it makes any IT investment a risky proposition.

Let me illustrate this with 4 recent examples I ran into:

1. Potential for flawed prioritization

A retail customer’s IT department apparently knew that fixing and enriching a customer loyalty record across the enterprise is a good and financially rewarding idea.  They only wanted to understand what the less-risky functional implementation choices where. They indicated that if they wanted to learn what the factual financial impact of “fixing” certain records or attributes, they would just have to look into their enterprise data warehouse.  This is where the logic falls apart as the warehouse would be just as unreliable as the “compromised” applications (POS, mktg, ERP) feeding it.

Even if they massaged the data before it hit the next EDW load, there is nothing inherently real-time about this as all OLTP are running processes of incorrect (no bidirectional linkage) and stale data (since the last load).

I would question if the business is now completely aligned with what IT is continuously correcting. After all, IT may go for the “easy or obvious” fixes via a weekly or monthly recurring data scrub exercise without truly knowing, which the “biggest bang for the buck” is or what the other affected business use cases are, they may not even be aware of yet.  Imagine the productivity impact of all the roundtripping and delay in reporting this creates.  This example also reminds me of a telco client, I encountered during my tenure at another tech firm, which fed their customer master from their EDW and now just found out that this pattern is doomed to fail due to data staleness and performance.

2. Fix IT issues and business benefits will trickle down

Client number two is a large North American construction Company.  An architect built a business case for fixing a variety of data buckets in the organization (CRM, Brand Management, Partner Onboarding, Mobility Services, Quotation & Requisitions, BI & EPM).

Grand vision documents existed and linked to the case, which stated how data would get better (like a sick patient) but there was no mention of hard facts of how each of the use cases would deliver on this.  After I gave him some major counseling what to look out and how to flesh it out – radio silence. Someone got scared of the math, I guess.

3. Now that we bought it, where do we start

The third culprit was a large petrochemical firm, which apparently sat on some excess funds and thought (rightfully so) it was a good idea to fix their well attributes. More power to them.  However, the IT team is now in a dreadful position having to justify to their boss and ultimately the E&P division head why they prioritized this effort so highly and spent the money.  Well, they had their heart in the right place but are a tad late.   Still, I consider this better late than never.

4. A senior moment

The last example comes from a South American communications provider. They seemingly did everything right given the results they achieved to date.  This gets to show that misalignment of IT and business does not necessarily wreak havoc – at least initially.

However, they are now in phase 3 of their roll out and reality caught up with them.  A senior moment or lapse in judgment maybe? Whatever it was; once they fixed their CRM, network and billing application data, they had to start talking to the business and financial analysts as complaints and questions started to trickle in. Once again, better late than never.

So what is the take-away from these stories. Why wait until phase 3, why have to be forced to cram some justification after the purchase?  You pick, which one works best for you to fix this age-old issue.  But please heed Sohaib’s words of wisdom recently broadcast on CNN Money “IT is a mature sector post bubble…..now it needs to deliver the goods”.  And here is an action item for you – check out the new way for the business user to prepare their own data (30 minutes into the video!).  Agreed?