How to talk to Business Leaders about Data Management, Scott Taylor

1 Nov 2022 13:05 | Sue Russell (Administrator)


Mark Humphries, DAMA UK Chairman, introduced a lively presentation from Scott Taylor - AKA The Data Whisperer. Scott’s entertaining, inspiring and informative talk tackled head-on the common problems data professionals face when making the business case for data management to leaders at their organisation. How can we frame the tangible benefits while also linking them directly to business goals?

Every enterprise is focused on transformation to optimise the customer experience (CX). You’ve probably noticed, however, that senior leaders don’t always recognise such a change in strategy must always be underpinned by valuable, structured data. Without it there will be no transformation.

Scott’s presentation was a call-to-arms for data management professionals, summarising his personal mission to help our industry make the case for ‘better data’. It’s something you’ve probably sought advice about. You may even be building a business case for data management right now.

Scott recognises it’s rarely as simple as putting together a plan, then presenting it to the senior leadership stakeholders. This can be due to a breakdown in communication (ours is a complex field!) or perhaps a lack of understanding that data is vital for a shift to tech-driven operations. As Scott states: “Digital needs data, and data needs data management.”

Making your case with The 4Cs

Transformational CX has many components. Your organisation could be seeking to shift its model to put the customer at the heart of everything it does. Alternatively, the goal might be a switch to direct-to-consumer commerce; a greater focus on self-service; or the need to reassure the target market about aspects of data privacy and consent.

Of course, data underpins all of these strategic imperatives. Yet it isn’t always available to the required standard, or in a structure that is fit for purpose. Scott says the first step to better CX is defining master data - “All of the data in charge of your business” - in a way that’s easy for busy or baffled boardroom folk to understand. He reveals a good way to encapsulate this is “The 4 Cs” of master data:

  • Code - one for every entity, e.g. product, in your database so it can be easily identified
  • Company - a hierarchy that structures data in use across your organisation e.g. describing a specific client account
  • Category - what kind of data is this - e.g. in which sector or channel - and how can it drive segmentation and analysis?
  • Country - an identifier that directly relates to the geographies where your firm operates, from region to postcode

In the simplest terms (for non-data experts), data organised around The 4Cs will tell your business who, what and where it relates to, and why it’s unique.

Let CX trends drive your data management case

Taking a focus on current macro-level CX trends is key to show no modern business process will work properly without data management. These are the commercial trends the CMO, CTO and CEO and others will likely be aware of already. If you can frame the need for quality, structured master data in these terms it will make your case stronger.

Here are five trends DAMA has identified as being in play at many organisations:

  • Data mesh - a new approach to data based on distributed architecture for data management
  • Modern data stack - the quest to identify all of the tools needed for a modern approach to data management centred around data science and the data lake
  • Data fabric - a set of data services that is decoupled from any physical platforms to provide seamless access
  • Data ops - a way for data teams to collaborate to improve CX and, ultimately, results
  • ‘Green’ data - the development of data products to help organisations assess and monitor carbon impact

As Scott says: “Transformation around these and other trends won’t work if you don’t have the data to back it up. That means having a 360-degree view, tying together disparate data sources across platforms. Making it available to the entire enterprise takes a lot of data structuring behind the scenes.”

Place your data on a three-stage roadmap

A final piece of the jigsaw when setting out your case is to describe where your organisation is on its transformation journey. Scott identified three stages:

  • Legacy - when data is not in a great state; multiple departments and systems operating in silo. “There isn’t a vertical that isn’t struggling with this,” Scott believes.
  • Integrated - the phase when you’ve begun to take the most important aspects of your operations and placed them at the centre of your business strategy (whether it’s product- or customer-centric).
  • Connected - structured data includes that which links to your partners, described by Scott as “an external network of trusted ecosystems”. This could be any type of intermediary involved in your CX e.g. getting your physical product to market through a distributor; or a digital product or service sent directly to a customer device, perhaps relying on cloud hosting as an intermediary.

The consistent requirement to move from “silo to centric to network”, as Scott puts it, are authentic identity - trusted data - and a common data structure.

Putting data to work across your organisation

If you’re still unsure how to make the case for data management, Scott advocates a focus on the business benefits.

He uses a framework that he labels “the eight ‘-ates’” to lay out a transformational roadmap, complete with tangible outcomes to make a play for investment in better data: relate (connect with stakeholders); validate (present evidence); integrate (pull sources together); communicate (in clear terms); aggregate (analyse and report); interoperate (connect with third-parties); evaluate (what you need/want); and circulate (data flow drives value).

We’re keen to hear your own tales of presenting a data management strategy to senior leaders. What were the barriers, and what helped you to succeed?

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