28 Jul 2022 12:53 | Sue Russell (Administrator)


For a DAMA webinar hosted by our Committee Member Nicola Askham, Bank of England Data Management Lead Abel Aboh issued a clarion call to data management professionals to demystify what we do, so the wider business can grasp the value of data.

Abel bases his approach to simplifying the complex concept of data management on three pillars. This article takes a closer look at how to build these foundations within your organisation.

Do your business leaders really understand what you do?

If the answer is a wistful “no”, it might comfort you to know that you’re not alone. According to research, 46% of all CDOs claimed their bosses’ understanding of their role is misinformed. Exactly half also said the value they add to their business is generally overlooked.

It seems logical that by extension the same will be true for many data management professionals, not just CDOs.

But instead of blaming a lack of C-suite - or even IT department - interest in our skills, perhaps it’s time to consider what we can do to move the needle, to unlock the business value of data management, and to explain why data underpins success.

Demystifying data starts with simplification

If you’re familiar with the DAMA Wheel - hopefully most of you are! - you’ll know there are multiple ways we segment our skills. Let’s face it, our expertise covers so many disciplines.

Yet therein lies the problem. Do we really expect non-data people in our organisations to spend time grasping the intricacies of our roles?

That doesn’t seem wise. At the same time, however, fostering a better understanding of data management across your organisation means your data strategy is more likely to succeed - from buy-in at all levels to demonstrating ROI that counts.

So let’s ditch the jargon and simplify what we say to people about data management.

It’s also important to note that we can be guilty of putting too much emphasis on trying to explain what data is. Abel’s advice is to avoid wasting time defining data. We must focus instead on the context of how we’ll use data to achieve stated business goals.

Defining the context of data management within a business is the best way it can be used to add value. Abel believes the case for an entire organisation to know the power of data can be built on three pillars.

The three pillars of data management

Helping your colleagues understand how data connects across the structure of your organisation is key.

These are the three pillars that can help you build insight and buy-in.

KNOW - The first pillar is a case of enabling the business to recognise the data it holds and how it is structured. What is the source of that data? How is it organised within the company? This also means describing how the data is managed - and by whom - and the processes that you follow to ensure it is a valuable asset.

Once your organisation understands the source, quality, lineage and structure of the data that is available it becomes much easier for leaders to:

      trust the data when making simpler, better and faster decisions

      drive effective and efficient business processes

      automate and scale personalised customer experiences

TRUST - The second pillar is vital to help your colleagues understand how and why they should trust the data the business has access to. Anyone with a limited understanding of data management might form the impression that what we do is highly restrained by regulation. This is true, of course, but it also means we’ve devised cutting-edge yet compliant ways to use data to the advantage of our organisations - in that it’s fully fit for purpose.

Building trust is a means to engage people with data management as a whole. Trust makes success more likely, helping decision-makers take steps without feeling the need to compromise out of fear or guilt.

Providing - and proving - data quality is a large part of this aspect. This really matters: one poll suggests 85% of companies have made strategic errors by using poor data.

USE - The third pillar, no less important than the other two, is all about unlocking the business value of data. Abel says this is where the rubber hits the road. If you have successfully constructed the first two pillars your organisation can attain a level of data literacy, maturity and strategy that makes the third pillar stand on its own.

As data management professionals, we support and deliver activity that uses data to maximise positive outcomes for our organisation, achieving strategic success against objectives across the business that is founded on data-driven, informed decision-making.

Data’s real value is in its use and reuse. Leave it to languish untouched in a data warehouse and it essentially becomes a cost - as well as a potential risk.

Use the “Six Cs” in your own data storytelling

You’ve all heard of data storytelling. In this final section we share Abel’s approach for telling the story of data management at your organisation. It’s called the Six Cs:

Communicate - Recognising most organisations have been through upheaval in the past two years, there’s a new need to reach out to colleagues to explain what we do. That means taking every opportunity to do so!

Connect - Data management is a team sport; we can’t do this on our own. Join the dots between adjacent skills at your organisation to blend business and technical knowhow.

Collaborate - Extending the point above, this means figuring out how your organisation can join forces with external experts to make the most of your data management strategy.

Change - Data management can be at the forefront of change management within your business, changing thoughts and behaviours to drive better outcomes.

Coach - We must get in the trenches, engaging and training people on the aspects of data management that matter in their daily role and the wider business strategy.

Create - Delivery of data management strategy is only limited by our imaginations. What else could you and your colleagues be doing to help ensure data makes a difference?

Conclusion: keep it simple

In summary, cut out the data jargon and keep it simple. Use the three pillars to communicate the fundamentals of your role, and explain why data has a big bearing on business success. Finally, call on the Six Cs to spread the word, build trust and showcase the business value of data, whether that’s:

      Boosting operational efficiency

      Making better decisions

      Improving business processes

      Other critical aspects of your organisation

Try the three pillars approach as a framework - even feel free to adapt it for the specific needs of your business. Let us know how you get on.

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