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Data Governance: The Key to Data Management (Part 3), by Tom Marine

Part 3 in the powerful series by Tom Marine on how to set up a data governance initiative

Thanks for coming back for Part Three of our data governance series by Tom Marine. In Part One, we talked about setting up the data governance charter. In Part Two, we covered capturing the current state. In this installment, we take on the more difficult task of optimizing your workflows to a future state: defining where you want to go.

Part 3: Process Improvements – Future State Optimization

There is a logical sequence to optimizing your data – first, complete your Current State workshop. Utilizing the Current State results, define and build the optimal processes, which creates the baseline needed to develop your optimal flow.

This is a good time for insightful facilitation to address both cultural and data optimization challenges. We find that organizations struggle with objective facilitation of this step, mostly because everyone involved has some skin in the game. By working with an outside party, you’ll develop an open forum for feedback, if done correctly.

Here are some key points to follow as you build the current state:

  • “What” is the question – As mentioned before, one invaluable lesson in facilitation is the “what” question – try to form all your questions as “what” and steer clear of “why,” which can elicit defensive responses and seem to challenge the intellect of the person being questioned.
  • People don’t like change – What are your biggest fears? What are you willing to invest in the process? Since you can’t go backwards, what can you contribute to the future?
  • Address the Pain Points – Now that an optimized process is being developed, the captured pain points from the previous exercises need to be addressed. The reasons may be more obvious now, but if there’s still “energy” around them, they’ll need to get addressed. Typically, these go back to trust, exceptions and accountability. Be careful … and be nice.
  • Comfortable with the data – What will it take to trust the data processes? Can you agree to trust the data at a certain point if those criteria are met? Can you help in identifying when it’s a data issue or a process issue in order to become comfortable?
  • Software is not the solution – What does the software do that will allow you to improve YOUR processes? What do the manual processes do that cannot be replicated in the software?
  • Refer to the RACSI Chart – This should be the basis for the optimized future state. How do we convert these into statuses, alerts and workflows to move data through the system?
  • Eliminate Redundancies – Where are there duplicate entries? What originally caused that redundancy? Were those redundancies known before the process workshop was started? What are the reasons to keep the redundancies? What are the reasons to remove them?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Who else, inside or outside the team, can shed light on anything? Don’t be afraid to ask – it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s about getting it right and hearing other perspectives.
  • Keep the Parking Lot – Don’t let extended dialog and opinion differences stop momentum. Put it aside and, in some cases, meet separately with the players that are at odds. Ask them in a 1:1 situation, which should ease some of the energy. After that, develop the approach to bring the solution together.
  • GO BACK TO THE BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS – Keep the questions that are most important to the business handy – go back to those and repeat them. After a while, the team will start asking them for you. Another good exercise is to have them posted on the wall.

Example of a Future State Diagram

Example of a Future State Diagram

Use Case Development

The key to being able to make comparable evaluations of solution providers is through the development of use cases. These are actual definitions of current steps that need to be mapped to the new process. The solution providers use these to develop contextual demonstrations, which help the users see how the solution fits.

Use cases need to be defined keeping several things in mind:

  • What are the set of tasks that mimics a current optimized flow and leads to software-assisted flow?
  • Who is doing the task now?
  • Choose a task that has several handoffs in order to involve multiple team members.
  • Define what the desired outcome should be.
  • Map the steps to the Business Requirements.
  • If the use case solution varies from the use case steps, the reasons need to be stated specifically.
  • Make sure to walk through the use cases prior to the solutions providers preparing their use case demonstration.
  • Give the solution providers contextual data to use, which will bring relevancy to the demonstration. Product content should include ERP data, marketing data, images, and any other content that would be associated relationally to a product.

Also, use cases will need to include several key functions across the board of how users work. You’ll need to think outside of the business requirements on this.

  • Admin/Configuration – Show the process to set up users, privileges and alerts. Refer to the RASCI chart, again, to help with these definitions. You’ll need names, job functions, groups of users that have similar responsibilities, etc.
  • Product Data Onboarding – A key area that typically surfaces as a Use Case is the product onboarding process. What steps are required to get a product from a supplier into the system and ready for use? Sometimes a comparative parallel depiction of the process showing the proposed steps to the existing steps will create context for the users.
  • Taxonomy and Hierarchy Building – Many times, Merchandisers / Product Managers will want to organize data specifically for their use – “My new products for 2015” or “This month’s web specials” or “The Print Catalog 2016” – the ability to manage these in a way that currently is being done (intuitive to the user, but probably manual) will typically create comfort. After all, this is the “thinking” part of the data management – something that cannot be assembled with artificial intelligence.
  • Content Changes – One of the biggest opportunities resulting from centralized data is the elimination of redundancies. It should be a Use Case to show how content changes in one location (the PIM) and then gets syndicated to multiple sources … change copy in the PIM and that copy shows up on the web and on the catalog page … change an image in the PIM and that image changes on the web and on the catalog page. Or, have additional customized copy or images that change on a specialized catalog (by market, by customers) or on specialized customer sub domains.
  • Asset Usages – Although more in the DAM realm, most PIMs will have some type of “light” DAM. There are some key usages in those light DAMs that could be factors in the PIMs fit. For instance, can the use case show how customers / distributors / retailers may be able to access your images? Can they be delivered using specific parameters (color spaces, DPI, file type)?

Now that we’ve defined the optimized state, in our next installment, we’ll need to figure what it will take to get there using gap analysis. More importantly, we’ll address the people factor – and building cultural maturity.

About Tom Marine

Tom Marine Head ShotTom is a Principal Consultant for MDM at Liaison Technologies. He is an accomplished executive with more than 30 years of marketing strategy integrated with technology. Tom strongly embraces cultural-training techniques. He has facilitated change in many different Data Management environments, from workflows in highly technical e-Commerce/legacy integrations to creative productivity planning in marketing-advertising-product management suites.

Tom’s technical areas of expertise include MDM/PIM, e-Commerce and Multichannel (Omnichannel) marketing with additional experience in data governance initiatives, data quality engagements, integration roadmaps, and taxonomy/hierarchy development. Having been a user, provider and consultant on MDM, Tom brings a 360-degree approach to the specific needs of technology solutions with marketing.

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  1. Data Governance: The Key to Data Management (Part 4), by Tom Marine | Hub Designs Magazine - 02/26/2016

    […] setting up the data governance charter. In Part Two, he covered capturing the current state. In Part Three, he looked at the difficult task of optimizing your workflows to a future state: to better define […]

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