Prove the Value of High Quality Data to Enable Digital Transformation

For the last few years, most conferences I have been to have had a common theme:  Digital Transformation. The clear message that comes from analysts, influencers and industry alike is that we are currently in the midst of the biggest transformation in corporate history. The transformation is digital in nature – and data is the foundation of this transformation.

Having immersed myself in this world of data-driven digital transformation, I was somewhat surprised by recent conversation, which took me back at least 10 years. I was asked to help explain the value of Customer Master Data Management to a manufacturing firm. However, I couldn’t use factors such as increasing cross-sell and up-sell, as ‘they are making enough money’. This level of leadership complacency is at complete odds with the urgency to ‘adapt or die’ most commentators are preaching.

The company in question primarily sells a niche product, and currently has either no, or few, competitors. Senior management appear happy with the status quo. They could be blinding themselves to the need for data management capabilities required to keep abreast of digital transformation, or even maintain the status quo. As somebody in the organization is interested in data management technology, it indicates a need to improve data quality, management and governance practice.

Recent history has not been kind to organizations that have been complacent in the face of change[i]. I believe that today complacency in the face of digital transformation is more likely to arise in a manufacturing firm. Their products are physical, and have their own competitive advantages. Here the power of high quality data can be harder to sell than in service industries, where the link to digital capabilities is clearer.

If you are employed by a company where senior management does not yet understand data is the foundation of digital transformation, you must demonstrate the value of data. Based on my experience in the data management industry, I have noticed a common pattern for delivering value from data.

5 steps to demonstrate the value of high quality data to senior leadership

1. Identify the impact of poor data management in your company

  • This could be a lack of agility, poor decision making, or lost opportunity
  • It may also be the lack of agility to adapt quickly in our digital world

2. Draw a clear path from problem to root cause

3. Deliver value by improving data quality

  • Scope and deliver a project that addresses the root cause of the problem

4. Tell everybody about it

  • Internal marketing is key to bring people along on the journey

5. Repeat

  • Build on your success, increasing project scope and complexity as appropriate

Yes – this is a long-term strategy, but the reality is that delivering high quality data throughout an organization is not achieved rapidly. However, successes tend to rapidly spawn more interest, leading to more and larger projects.

You are almost certain to have like-minded colleagues who are also working on initiatives which are designed to embrace value from data or digital transformation.  These teams will make natural allies in the journey to improve data quality, availability and agility across the organization. Coordinating messages and technology with these other teams should speed up overall buy-in from senior leadership as you accelerate the delivery of value, and demonstrate agility, by improving your data management capabilities.

Of course, there are no guarantees in life. Even if you successfully demonstrate the value high quality data can deliver in your company, you may not be able to convince senior management they need to embrace change. On the plus side, having followed at least the first four steps above, you will have demonstrated the drive and experience that will be appreciated at one of the hundreds of companies that have already embraced data-driven transformation!

[i] On a whim, I did some quick desktop research: The only article I found praising complacency was as a strategy of not rocking the boat in a bid to get re-elected to political office when citizens are basically happy with their situation.