Will it ever be possible for organizations to establish enterprise-wide data management capabilities while they engage in what I call tactical “data fixing” activities? It’s a question I’ve asked over the past 20 years of advising companies on data management strategies because I frequently find businesses and government agencies managing data within a functional area at the expense—potentially significant over time—of the overall enterprise.

Considering the overall enterprise

A good example comes from my past work with a company’s finance function, which had an entire team reformatting data from the various lines of business for use in SEC compliance  reporting. This team essentially solved the data quality and reconciliation problem but, at no point, did anyone ask whether finance was the right group to be cleaning data. Even more perplexing, no one questioned why the data was not in a usable and integration-ready format to begin with. I learned part of the issue was related to job security: If data problems were fixed by the company’s business segments, this finance team would become redundant.

Another example of this phenomenon comes when organizations invest in data warehouses to create trusted sources for analytics and reporting, then fail to address the larger architectural issue where similar—or the same—data exists in other systems. When separate data sources are available, the outcome is untrustworthy, unreliable data and inconsistent or inaccurate reports.

Building capabilities across the enterprise

In both scenarios, point solutions were implemented to correct a problem without seeing the bigger picture for well-governed, quality data. Premier organizations recognize the importance of building capabilities across the enterprise rather than within a particular functional area or silo. Yet given the number of client discussions Resigility has about data silos and data that can’t be shared or takes excessive time to use, enterprise-wide thinking is not happening on a broad scale. There are four primary reasons for this:

  • Data as a management discipline (versus an IT discipline): I observe relatively little of this, however, the evolution of big data and sheer growth in data volume are generating a growing appreciation for sound data management.
  • Fiscal reality: With projects and programs typically funded to create functional capabilities, such as a data warehouse or customer relationship management system, it’s rare for organizations to ensure such systems can speak to each other. This can lead to so-called “technical debt,” requiring significant funding and resources to sort out.
  • Culture: Transforming culture relies on hard work, laser focus and clear communication—but the positive impact makes it all worthwhile. I’m grateful to work with talented people who make culture change look easy.
  • Leadership: Although leadership is necessary to drive culture change, my emphasis here is about the necessity of leaders to recognize data as an asset affecting revenue, profits, and budgets — especially if data is badly managed or left unattended.

Changing how data is managed

How can we change the way data is managed? Here are a few steps to get underway:

  • Start at the top: Leadership must understand the far-reaching impact of data, associated challenges, and the role of data at the operational or execution level.
  • Communicate: Clear and focused communication—up, down and across the organization—is another key to solving data problems.
  • Manage change: Communication is also central to change management, along with maintaining consistency over time to avoid reverting to “the old way.”
  • Connect everything: Little things may be insignificant individually but can collectively drive data and change management best practices throughout the enterprise.
  • Comprehensive plan: This will vary based on the organization’s size and nature but must tackle all the above.

At Resigility, we like to take a top-down and bottom-up approach to ensure enterprise transformational goals are identified and understood by each organization and to develop a realistic path forward. I’m happy to connect through Resigility and/or LinkedIn to discuss your enterprise-wide data, information management and analytics opportunities.

Jonathan Adams, Director of Data & Information Services, Resigility