Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Politics of Data

I got an invitation from Oracle to a webcast titled “The Politics of Data” and it occurred to me that they hit the nail squarely on the head -- politics have taken over the issues of data in organizations dependent on data quality to grow their businesses. That’s why it is so difficult for companies to get the data right and keep the data clean, even though there are many available technical solutions to this persistent problem.

This is a real problem that requires a a process-oriented solution. But in most cases it becomes subject to internecine politics which derail attempts to put all the data in one place, clean it, up date it and manage its use.

Consider the typical data landscape:

1. Data changes constantly. People move. They change titles, jobs, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, locations, responsibilities, etc regularly. On an annual basis 30% of b2b data goes bad and 15% of the b2c population moves their primary address. Add to that people and companies buy things, return them, get credit, pay late, need support, etc. So on top baseline data changes, transactional data changes are constant since relationships are fluid and dynamic.

2. Data is often held by different players. In a typical company bits of data are held in different departments. Legal has the contract details. Accounting has the credit application and the payment records. Marketing has contact names and addresses of customers and prospects and is constantly collecting more of each. Sales knows what they bought and who they sold it to. Customer service has names and details of issues raised, problems solved and technical matters.

Each department tends to hold onto the information they have. They share only when asked and usually in the context of a specific incident or problem. In big companies each department might be in a different location and/or have its own system of filing and its own software for storing the data. Meanwhile nobody has a complete view of the customer so opportunities to better engage and sell that customer are lost and opportunities to annoy the customer abound.

3. Data control means job security. Salespeople, managers and marketers think that if they know critical stuff about the business, they can’t be fired. So they hoard information as a hedge against the zigs and zags of corporate life. Since everyone knows information is power, there is a second incentive to gather and hide information -- to attack rivals or to defend yourself in on-going corporate battles.

In too many organizations today, many messy and changing details are dispersed among competing people and organizations, often in different places using different data formats or systems, each of whom have practical incentives not to cooperate. It is the picture of Dorian Gray.

Yet with top-down leadership (or if I were king) this state of affairs can be easily reversed. Consider this formula based on best practices …

CEO decrees all data will live in a single data warehouse. Sets negative incentives for non-compliance and a timetable for implementation.
CIO selects and implements an enterprise data software system. Creates and administers a secure access and permissioning regime. Trains everyone and creates positive and negative incentives for rapid compliance.
CMO appoints a data czar/czarina who owns data collection, aggregation, privacy and integrity functions and devices routine updates and data hygiene processes. Marketing also is charged with analyzing data and sharing relevant insights across all departments.
Administrative help is hired to insure salespeople input data and commission payments become dependent on data compliance.

Its almost that easy, if you can filter out the politics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I discuss this topic daily myself. I also have a website that talks about free small business resource related things. Go check it out if you get a chance.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I really like this one. I have a website that talks mostly about email marketing system You should check it out sometime.

11:50 PM  

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