For a long time now, I’ve admired Guy Kawasaki, one of the early Apple employees responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer in 1984. He’s credited with being one of the people to bring the concept of evangelism, in his case focused on creating passionate users and developers to become advocates for Apple, to the high tech business.
I’ve tried to emulate him by being an evangelist for customer and product MDM. From 2001 to 2004, I was a consultant working with the precursor to Oracle’s Customer Data Hub platform. At D&B from 2004 to 2007, I managed its strategic alliance with Oracle while Oracle launched and refined Customer Data Hub. I left D&B to start Hub Designs in 2007 because I wanted to work more directly in developing and executing MDM strategy at corporate clients. All this time, I’ve tried to get people excited about using the evolving technology to solve business problems.
In the past nine years, in all of the different industries and companies I’ve worked with, most have quickly “gotten” MDM:
- They understand the value of the Single View of the Customer (or Product, as the case may be).
- They see the revenue increases from being able to up-sell and cross-sell customers by knowing more about them, and by knowing their own products better.
- They understand the dollar value of having a streamlined, coordinated New Product Introduction process.
- They see the short payback period and millions in savings from a strategic sourcing program that consolidates vendors and products, and renegotiates agreements.
- They understand the contribution MDM makes to credit risk management (know your customer, and whether they can pay their bills on time).
- And they see how MDM (done properly, which includes data quality improvement and a data governance program) makes it much easier and more efficient to have accurate, complete, timely and consistent information available for compliance with governance regulations.
But all of those organizations, where I’ve been the “external champion” or evangelist, have needed a corresponding “internal champion” or evangelist.
Someone to lead the charge internally, to have the hallway conversations, to fight the good fight politically, to scrap for every budget dollar, to convince the powers that be, the type of person who digs in and doesn’t let go. Someone who’s convinced that master data management and data governance is important to his or her company. That it’s so important that it’s worth going out on a bit of a career limb. Or who perhaps was brought in specifically to head up an initiative like this.
My friend Tom Carlock wrote a great article called “So You Want to be a Data Champion?”, where he discusses how to be prepared to be your organization’s “data champion”. Tom knows whereof he speaks, because he’s been in roles like that at The CIT Group and AIG, and is now a leader of product strategy at D&B. He mentions attributes like being able to have a consistent vision that you can “sell” to others, the ability to develop and maintain relationships, being able to listen, ask for input and deal with objections, and being optimistic, hopeful and patient.
To that I would add, being persistent. My father introduced me to a quote by Calvin Coolidge, the 30th U.S. President:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
If you decide to become an MDM evangelist at your company, and you’re persistent in that role, you can help your company manage master data as an enterprise-wide asset – and transform itself in the process. I think our corporations today – ten years into the twenty-first century – desperately need that type of innovation and change.