IT professionals attempting to garner co-worker and executive support for new or ongoing data management plans might want to consider trying some guerrilla marketing, according to Steve Sarsfield, a product marketing manager with open source software vendor Talend and author of the book The Data Governance Imperative.
Speaking before a crowded room at the recent Talend Connect conference in Boston, Sarsfield explained that guerrilla marketing is all about keeping up the level of communication between business and IT and doing some selling. The idea, he said, is to keep company higher-ups informed about any data management wins or benefits so they will be more likely to support similar initiatives in the future.
"What about putting a little tag line at the bottom of your emails about the amount of money that you saved the company [thus far]?" Sarsfield suggested. "What about setting up a weekly newsletter or blog and using communication to overcome [barriers]?"
Guerilla marketing is just one of several steps that IT professionals can take to garner new or continued support for data management plans, according to Sarsfield, who ran down a list of suggestions for the conference attendees.
Regardless of the type of data management project being proposed -- for example, master data management, data integration, data quality, data governance or "big data" analytics -- it's imperative to focus the business case on the business benefits and the expected return on investment (ROI).
For most companies, Sarsfield continued, the business benefits of data management tend to fall into three main categories: increased revenue, greater efficiency and an improved ability to comply with regulatory mandates.
"You want to find the ROI and make sure that you talk about it," he said. "Give clear metrics on success or failure and make sure you have an agile approach where you're limiting your scope."
And when talking to business types about data management plans, try not to sound so techie, Sarsfield advised. In other words, it’s a good idea to have a prepared "elevator pitch."
"When someone asks what you do, you shouldn't say that you manage the metadata throughout the organization," he said. "What you should say is that you're helping us make more money, be more efficient and comply with regulatory [mandates]."
Consider the consequences of inaction
Another way to sell executives on the value of data management is to focus on what will happen if no action is taken.
In one example, Sarsfield cited a company that was sending packages to the wrong addresses due to poor customer data quality. Had the company failed to take action and correct the issue, it would have gone right on making the same mistakes and wasting money. Instead, it opted to retrain staff on proper data entry procedures and enact new data quality policies.
"When you do nothing as part of your data management process it can cost you [greatly] over the years," he said.
Know the common objections to data management plans
IT professionals proposing a data management plan should be prepared to face some common objections. The first has to do with concerns over data accessibility. When organizations start knocking down silos and centralizing data management, business leaders may worry that they will lose access to the data that their business units create.
Then it’s time to face down the challenge of data definitions, Sarsfield said. Organizations will have to agree upon official definitions of terms like "customer," "product" and "supplier" to ensure consistency across business applications and departments.
And then there is the emotional factor.
"People are resistant to change," he said. "But I think you can overcome a lot of these [challenges] by just building trust. The key strategy here is just making sure that you are a trusted advisor in your relationships with people [and that you can] intermingle with business and IT and help them understand the business value of proper data management."
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