One of my favorite philosophers is Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.
If you have not yet studied his quotes, I strongly suggest you look them up. His declaration “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question” can be interpreted similar to the quote “the more you know, the more you realize how much you do not know” (author unknown). When asked a question outside your current knowledge, you have three choices: plead ignorance (the humble approach), find the answer (the intellectual approach), or B.S. (the humorous approach, if done correctly). The choice is yours.
When my son was about to graduate high school, we took a trip to preview the college campus he would be attending that fall. The university is located about 5 hours from our house and my wife, son, and I planned to leave by 7:00 AM to have ample time for lunch prior to our 1 PM scheduled tour of the campus. My wife has never been good with clocks and our departure was closer to 8 AM instead. I made up some time on the drive down but we still had little time to eat lunch, prompting my wife to comment “we need to just slow down so we are not in such a hurry all the time”. Pondering that for a minute, I realized that if she did not slow down when we were trying to leave that morning, we wouldn’t have been in a hurry to begin with. Though an ironic phrase in the context of our travel that day, her observation is accurate in other situations.
I have considered the phrase “not enough time to do it right the first time, but enough time to fix it later” to be a hindsight perspective of armchair quarterbacks. If somebody purposely plans a shortcut that will knowingly result in massive rework later, please do not send me your resume. I don’t ever remember hearing myself say that phrase but do consider a larger context when evaluating budgets and project constraints placed on decision makers accused of not doing it correctly by those in armchairs. On the other hand, I’ve seen sloppy and unmanageable code produced out of laziness or lack of skills which would have never made it past a proper code review. So, like the other discussion, there is some merit to it.
So, how does this all relate to Information Management?
Business involvement and defined requirements are the foundation for Information Management decisions. Business users know the core information they need and are usually eager to ask anybody from IT who will listen to help them find and manage it.
Unfortunately for them, business users are constrained by the budget, capacity, and capabilities that their Information Technology department can provide. The answer lies in setting priorities and working as partners with each other to define an Information Management solution that gives the business control of their information.
Rushing through requirements definition without adequately identifying success goals leaves the effort with unfulfilled business users. Clear goals and expectations on both sides is needed.
I’ll leave you with one more Yogi Berra quote, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is”. Think about it!
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?
Last week’s MDM Summit conference was great, as usual. Attendance may have been down slightly due to the well-publicized economic situation. But there were still a lot of “end user companies” in attendance, either speaking or attending to learn more about this fast-growing field.
One theme we picked up on was the idea of “Master Data Management solving business problems”, rather than being a pure technology “silver bullet”. While having a central hub, married up to powerful data quality software, and integrated with the rest of the enterprise via the latest Service-Oriented Architecture integration tools is very definitely sexy, what’s even more compelling is looking for and solving the most difficult recurring problems that today’s large companies are facing.
Whether it’s driving increased revenue through better, more effective marketing and selling, or reducing costs by improving process efficiency and sunsetting redundant application infrastructure, or enabling smoother, more rational regulatory compliance, the promises of MDM are being realized in the leading companies who are implementing it.
This is not hype, people. While there may well be a “trough of disillusionment” in MDM’s future (or going on right now), the business and IT benefits are real, large and realizable. This is not a repeat of the wave of ERP adoption prior to Y2K, or the rush to implement a “me too” CRM strategy.
Any time you can help the business make more money, spend less money, and have a markedly easier time getting the bureaucratic monkey off its back, people in the business are going to notice and reward you for it.
I hate to say “the future’s so bright we have to wear shades”, but from our perspective, MDM is just hitting its stride, and does indeed have a bright future.
If you disagree, we’d love to hear from you via a comment.
As SOA (service oriented architecture) initiatives gain popularity, let’s look at how MDM (master data management) and data governance can dovetail with a SOA strategy.
SOA, although technically a type of IT architecture, is more of an integrated approach to building high-level services that are inherently reusable and scalable across various applications. High-level services are not consumed as end-point services themselves, but operate more at the business process level.
While composing the entity framework for a service-oriented architecture, a Data Governance Council should be an integral part of the SOA team. The role of the Data Governance Council is two-fold:
- Provide a comprehensive data map (authoritative sources, data flows and underlying data policies) to the SOA architects, and
- To plan and implement “Master Data Services” as part of the services available for consumption to applications within the scope of SOA. An example would be “Create Customer”, where sources, lookups, standards, business validations and enrichments are all built-in, and are available for applications across the enterprise to consume in a robust, auditable fashion.
So what does this do for an MDM initiative?
It provides a powerful platform to integrate the current business processes and to improve levels of data quality, to provide accurate, current and complete data within and outside the IT applications.
It also provides a central platform and process for various domains of master data (suppliers, items, etc) as they come aboard the MDM bandwagon.
We’re really looking forward to the MDM Summit conference in San Francisco, which runs from Sunday, March 30th through Tuesday, April 1st.
This is a very exciting space. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the mega-vendors like Oracle, IBM and SAP get more and more interested in master data management. We’ve seen the best-of-breed providers like D&B/Purisma, Initiate Systems and Siperian doing very well, as they enhance their products and grow their customer bases. And we’ve seen the “piling on” factor, as companies from all over the enterprise software spectrum re-brand and re-purpose their products for the MDM market.
This is my fifth MDM Summit, and at every one that we attend, we learn more – about the technology of course, but also about the people and personalities that drive the business, about the software vendors and systems integrators, and the end user companies and how they’re succeeding with MDM.
I’ve always loved using technology to solve business problems. And master data management really appeals to me there – it’s a great combination of better technology, better processes and better people/organization, resulting in better information, which can in turn solve some really big business problems.
It’s great to get together twice a year at Aaron Zornes’ and SourceMedia’s MDM Summit conferences. They’re very well-done, and it’s a great place to see people, catch up on what’s happening in the business, and hear the latest success stories.
So if you’re going to be in San Francisco, please look me up. You can drop me a note via our web site or give me a ring at 781-836-4875.
When it comes to building the case for an Information Management strategy, cost reductions alone may generate enough benefits to justify your business case, or they could further enhance your economic arguments.
Here are some examples of where you may uncover potential cost reductions:
1) IT costs, such as managing redundant systems/databases, data duplication and/or reconciliation, consulting fees, and software maintenance fees
2) Delivery costs due to inaccurate data, such as product returns, shipping fines, direct marketing waste, returned employee mailings, and Day Sales Outstanding (DSO) costs from invoicing delays
3) Productivity costs due to inefficient processes creating workarounds, redundancy, or rework. Also consider costs associated with audits, time to search for customer records, and time wasted matching customer files
Start by interviewing internal business partners to determine where they have issues. If your partners identify problems and participate in the business case development, they’ll have a vested interest in supporting it. Here are some business areas to consider:
- Finance / Credit / Accounting
- Sales / Contracts
- Corporate Development / Mergers & Acquisitions
- Customer Service / Call Center
- Operations / Production
- Human Resources
- Product / Vendor Management
Ways to identify and measure costs include:
- Quantify shipping fines, returns, or other operational expenses
- Quantify mail return rate, response rate, and delivery hit rate (did the mailing actually make it to the intended person?) Check with Direct Marketing, HR, Finance/Accounting/Credit, Mailroom, or any other outbound mail services for these costs.
- Identify rework or workaround activities such as returned mail, product, and invoice corrections, product information corrections, report reconciliation, multiple databases, merge/purge and data matching errors, etc. Some partners, both leadership and end users, may accept this as ‘business as usual’, so be careful not to appear threatening or overly challenging.
- Conduct process mapping or other continuous improvement activities to identify & quantify problem areas. Always keep a broad perspective and analyze both up and down-stream processes.
- Conduct time studies on processes or transactions that appear inefficient such as customer service, warehouse, manufacturing, vendor management, payroll, reporting, data management, selling, marketing, planning, forecasting, customer maintenance, mergers and acquisition, etc.
- Conduct satisfaction surveys to measure customers’ experience with duplicate mailings, wrong customer information, delayed shipments due to bad data, credit problems, customer look-up time, etc.
- Work with UPS, USPS, FedEx and other carriers to determine how to improve shipping/postal rates
Cost improvement opportunities will exist all around the business; the trick is determining where you will get the “big wins”. It’s good to have a Finance partner participate throughout this process, so your assumptions and calculations are ‘blessed’.
To find out how to identify business growth opportunities and align business leaders, stay tuned for the next two articles in this series by Maureen Butler.
When you’re building the business case for an Information Management strategy such as MDM, CDI, Data Governance, or Data Quality, start by articulating the business problems or opportunities. By building a compelling case and getting executive sponsorship, you’ll have a stronger chance of gaining organizational priority, funding and resources.
This 4-part series will review typical business challenges and provide pointers on how to make a compelling case for an Information Management strategy.
Part I: Risk Management
If your company’s leadership team is strongly focused on business risks, then focusing the business case on Risk Management is a good start. The following are some typical risk management issues:
Regulatory Compliance such as financial reporting, Sarbanes-Oxley, environmental
Legal Compliance such as contracts, pricing, compensation, privacy, human resources
Other concerns, including diversity programs, quality programs, business system performance, etc.
Your business case should identify specific risks that are of concern to the executive team:
- Reporting discrepancies, inaccuracies, gaps, timeliness, lack of reporting, etc.
- Lawsuits / litigation
- Audit risks and/or audit findings
- Loss of certifications
- System performance, data archiving/retrieval
- Company reputation
Whenever possible, quantify existing or potential costs if risks are not mitigated or eliminated:
- External and internal audit costs
- Fines / penalties / legal costs
- Reporting inaccuracies
- Lack of standards, controls, policies, processes, procedures
- Workarounds, rework and other quantifiable process inefficiencies
Determine which business partners could be your allies. The more you engage, the stronger your business case and the easier it is to get leadership support. Examples include:
- Internal Audit
- Sales / Contracts
- Human Resources
Risk Management is a great place to start, but if your organization doesn’t have compelling risk-related issues for some reason, or if you need to enhance your business case further, stay tuned for the next 3 articles in this series by Maureen Butler to find out more.