I was reading a very good article on a blog called Presentation Zen called The Importance of Starting from Why. The article describes a TED talk by a leadership expert and author named Simon Sinek. In his talk, which I encourage you to watch yourself, he talks about the importance of understanding the “Why” of something vs. the “How” and the “What”. Since I read that article and watched that video, I’ve been thinking about why I enjoy MDM and data governance so much, and about the central premise of Simon’s talk, which is that there’s a simple pattern, that all great and inspiring leaders and organizations think, act and communicate in the same way, and it’s the exact opposite from everyone else. He calls it “the golden circle”:
Why -> How -> What, and goes on to say that this little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire, where others aren’t. Every person and organization knows what they do, most know how they do it, but a lot don’t know why. The successful ones start with the why and work “inside out” (in the opposite direction from most people and companies). By nailing down the why first, everything else falls into place.
I don’t want to reproduce his whole talk here in this article, but it got me thinking about my interest in master data management and about Hub Designs and our approach to working with our clients.
I got interested in master data in one of my first consulting projects after graduating from college. I had a client that was a distributor of VHS videotapes. People would call up and order a show on tape, and the customer service people would enter them in as new customers rather than search to see if they might be an existing customer. Their order entry system was written in FoxPro on a PC network, and I had my own consulting business doing FoxPro programming. So I was engaged to help them deduplicate their customer master, based on similarity of customer name and address. I remember at the time thinking it was a great intellectual exercise.
That was my first exposure, but hardly my last. In 1995, I got recruited into a position as a project manager for an Oracle ERP implementation, and I did many Oracle projects over the years that followed. In ERP implementations, converting master data well is a big contributor to the success of the project, and I found that handling data quality issues properly became second nature to me.
In 2001-2002, I was a program manager on a large Oracle ERP project for a $1 billion software company, and one of the areas I oversaw was Customer Registration. My client and my team were one of the first to integrate Oracle’s Trading Community Architecture (TCA) with Dun & Bradstreet’s real-time database (D&B Data Integration Toolkit). That lead to my going to work for D&B in 2004, and being part of the Global Alliances team there until 2007. While at D&B, I managed their strategic alliance with Oracle, and worked closely with Oracle on Customer Data Hub and its integration with D&B content.
I mention all this not to bore you with my professional history for the past twenty-three years, but to illustrate how a passion for master data can get into your bones, and shape your career. It’s woven itself into my life, and become part of the “Why” for Hub Designs and how we work with our clients. Anyone who knows me or has worked with Hub Designs professionally knows that we care deeply about our clients and their success. They become part of our family. We hug them when we see them. We put so much of ourselves into our clients’ projects that we form relationships that last for years.
In the video we produced for the recent Gartner MDM Summit, we used words like ‘passion’, ‘performance’, ‘teamwork’, and ‘integrity’ to describe our “why”. That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning – making a difference for our clients, helping them solve their business problems, moving the needle, making things better in their organizations, and improving things one company at a time.
In the end, why I started my own consulting firm again was so I could work with clients in my own unique way, so I could develop something of lasting value, and so I could turn my passion for MDM and data governance into a business that would make a difference to our clients.
What’s your why?