Focus on business benefits to sell MDM to executives

Data management pros must focus on the business, not the technical, benefits of master data management (MDM) when selling it to executives, according to consultant Jill Dyche.

In this portion of the MDM Buyer's Guide, learn why data management professionals need to focus on the business

benefits of master data management software and processes -- not the technical ones --when selling MDM to corporate and business executives.


MDM Buyer's Guide Table of Contents:
 Choosing MDM software and understanding master data management
 Focus on business benefits to sell MDM to executives
 Evaluating and selecting an MDM vendor
As MDM project deployments grow more complex, ‘drama’ could follow
MDM building blocks from Gartner – governance, metrics key to success


SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Paul Coverstone, CIO of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), knows his organization needs MDM. The trick is explaining to business executives why that is.

Executives at the Laurel, Md.-based government agency think WSSC's ERP system should suffice when it comes to master data management (MDM). But Coverstone said there is plenty of data that resides outside the ERP system that justifies investment in a full-fledged MDM hub.

At other organizations, the benefits of MDM are more apparent.

Arlington, Va.-based Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) collects and analyzes passenger and financial data for the airline industry. But not every airline uses the same data standards, so aggregating it all is a difficult task, according to Becky Briggs, a data steward with ARC. Briggs said ARC executives are beginning to understand that MDM can make their business run more smoothly.

There's nothing more dangerous than an executive that's just read an airline article [on MDM]

Jill Dyche
Co-founder- Baseline Consulting

Coverstone's and Briggs' situations are not unique. For some time, data management pros have been wishing that C-level executives would at least acknowledge MDM, if not understand its benefits.

Well, that time may have come -- but be careful what you wish for.

"Executives are starting to care about master data management, believe it or not," said Jill Dyche, a consultant with Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Baseline Consulting, speaking today at the TDWI MDM Solutions Summit. "But there's nothing more dangerous than an executive that's just read an airline article [on MDM]," she warned.

That's why it's more important than ever to educate executives and other managers about the benefits of MDM in terms they can understand, Dyche said. That means illustrating the bottom-line business benefits of MDM, not the technical or IT-related ones.

Show how an MDM system will help meet company goals
Instead of explaining the architecture of an MDM system and how it will make data management pros' jobs easier, for example, show executives how MDM will help the company comply with government regulations, potentially saving millions of dollars, she said.

"Good MDM hubs enforce business rules," Dyche said. So if a customer opts out of online marketing campaigns, the MDM hub should prevent a marketing manager from accessing that customer's data. But the MDM hub would also allow, for example, the billing department access to the customer's contact data to send an invoice.

Data management professionals should also explain to executives that the number of relationships a customer has with a company is directly proportional to the customer's business value to the company, Dyche said. A customer who does banking, investing and retirement planning with a financial services firm, for example, is more valuable to the firm than a customer who just has one savings account.

And valuable customers who have multiple accounts with an organization are likely to have their data spread out among multiple systems. An MDM hub can centralize that data to ensure that the valuable customers receive consistent and accurate service no matter which business unit they deal with.

For Boeing, the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer, the need for an MDM program came into sharp relief when the company tried to implement an enterprise data warehouse, according to Andy Tran, an enterprise data architect at Boeing. The difficult part, Tran said, is getting Boeing's various business units to agree on common data standards. MDM will help with this job.

Create an "elevator pitch" on the business benefits of MDM
Data management pros shouldn't just settle with one business driver for MDM either. The more business initiatives there are that can benefit from an MDM project, the better the chances of getting executive funding and continued sponsorship, Dyche said.

It is also important to communicate with executives in as simple a way as possible. That's what Laura Tumperi, senior vice president of enterprise information at Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), is teaching her staff to do.

HCSC, a Chicago-based health insurance company that runs several state-based Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance programs, has been struggling with MDM and data governance for a number of years as the company has grown through acquisition, Tumperi said in an address to attendees at the TDWI MDM Solutions Summit.

To help sell MDM to HCSC executives, Tumperi challenged each member of her 400-person staff to come up with an "elevator speech," a one-minute speech on the business benefits of MDM. The goal, she said, is to "tell a story in one page that you can use with your constituents" to educate them on MDM.

Dyche made a similar point during her presentation. Organizational clarity on the business case for MDM is crucial, she said, "because as soon as you hang the MDM shingle, people are going to start asking questions."

Another tactic is to turn the selling of MDM on its head. Once you have laid out to executives the business benefits of MDM, challenge them to say why the company shouldn't go ahead with the project.

Finally, start small. Start an MDM project with a small, strategic business initiative to show success early. Then it will be easier to move on to larger projects.

"We don't have to solve world hunger with MDM in one day," Dyche said.


MDM Buyer's Guide Table of Contents:
 Choosing MDM software and understanding master data management
 Focus on business benefits to sell MDM to executives
 Evaluating and selecting an MDM vendor
As MDM project deployments grow more complex, ‘drama’ could follow
MDM building blocks from Gartner – governance, metrics key to success


 

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