Across virtually every industry, the volume of operational information about products, customers, and suppliers is increasing exponentially in size and complexity. Managing this information proactively is essential to improving business performance. Unfortunately, in most organizations, this information is duplicated and scattered across multiple systems and applications. As it evolves independently, it becomes error-prone, keeps decision makers from having a unified view of operational intelligence, and prevents customers from getting the accurate and timely information they need.
Looking to drive business actions in a timely fashion for both operational and analytical purposes, organizations are turning to master data management (MDM) solutions to integrate data domains and create a unified view that drives operational intelligence. Despite these benefits, educating executive teams on the value of MDM can be daunting and will require some thought and a well-crafted argument. It is imperative that these educators get inside the heads of their CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs and craft a persuasive argument in the language they understand.
Appeal to the CEO by Talking Business Benefits
CEOs have a lot going on. They are constantly thinking about profitability, the competition, top-line growth, customer satisfaction, and so forth, all in ways that can be measured and controlled.
So what questions are top of mind for your CEO? Chances are they include any and all of the following:
- How is my company going to make its number?
- Are we outperforming our competitors?
- Are we using our resources effectively?
- Do our employees understand and embrace our mission?
- Is that smaller, more nimble, or larger company with more resources targeting my customers?
- How do we reinvent customer relationships?
Keeping these concerns in mind, it is important to state both the proposed project cost and the business benefits of an MDM solution up front when approaching the CEO. Also, be sure to use factual measures that show how other companies have realized results when selling the business case. Look for metrics the CEO will understand and appreciate, including how the MDM solution increased revenue, business growth, or operational efficiency; how it improved data consistency and data governance; or finally how it translated into higher customer loyalty.
It is also important to offer your opinion. This is especially true if you have a good relationship with the CEO and he or she is familiar with the contributions you have made to the organization. But don't be surprised if the CEO fails to give you an answer. Unless you report directly to the CEO, your answer most likely will come from your manager.
Appeal to the CFO by Talking Dollars and Cents
Okay, admittedly this isn't rocket science, but the person in charge of your company's finances is all about dollars and cents. The areas CFOs are thinking of involve topics such as:
- How can we grow the business?
- How can we maintain/grow margins?
- How can we plan for the future with uneasiness in the economy?
One way to get the attention of the CFO is to let him know that with an MDM solution, your organization will have a single unified view of its data and processes, leading to increased revenue opportunities and more efficient business performance. CFOs need a business case that demonstrates a minimum rate of return, so include examples such as:
- The world's largest home improvement specialty retailer reduced new product introduction from 14 days to two days and grew its number of new products by 500 percent.
- A leading CPG company now has a single global view of products for the first time.
- A premier distributor of building products increased revenue by 30 percent and reduced inventory by 10 percent.
- The largest online seller of branded intimate apparel decreased shopping cart abandonment by 30 percent.
Appeal to the CIO by Talking IT Value
While assistance from IT is often needed, your CIO has an abundance of other initiatives to think about, including business intelligence and agility, infrastructure optimization, global operations, process automation, mobile devices and workers, and data and system security. All are fighting for the same budget.
CIOs are often found thinking:
- With constraints on funding, time, and resources, how can the company accomplish its goals?
- How can IT meet the business' needs in an orderly fashion?
- How can we deliver the knowledge needed to make business decisions?
- How can we demonstrate to the business the strategic value of IT?
One can expect various questions from IT. Be prepared to answer the following questions in a way that is both detailed and structured:
- How does the solution work? Is it hosted on-premises or by the vendor? What does IT need to do to have it function properly in our infrastructure?
- How and where is the data stored and transferred? Are there established processes to enable data governance? What measures are in place so that it does not compromise existing operations and security?
- What are the everyday, continuous operational aspects of the solution? How will these involve my team and other systems within my organization?
- Does the vendor deliver ongoing support?
- What is the process to extract ourselves from the solution both operationally and contractually if we are not satisfied?
CIOs can become agitated when IT is brought in at the last minute or when lines of business want to purchase a new solution. When it comes to influencing the IT group, it is always better to align the necessary business groups to get them involved early and to present the MDM case in a concrete, logical manner. Introducing IT to the organizational need early on is always recommended, as is soliciting their assistance in helping to evaluate vendors and their offerings. Lastly, be sure to meet frequently with IT to ensure a smooth implementation.
Master data management, as both a discipline and a practice, depends on dynamic collaboration between business and IT teams. MDM opens the door for team collaboration by better connecting cross-functional teams and improving integration of corporate functions. Not only does this result in optimized business performance and effectiveness, but it also enables reliable, shared information throughout the enterprise. Companies that use an agile information management approach where the core master data is reliable, trusted, accurate, cross-border consistent, timely, and complete are better able to adapt to changing business conditions and create a critical information resource that can applied throughout the enterprise.
Mikael Lyngsø is CEO of Stibo Systems, provider of a multidomain master data management solution. Contact him at StiboSystemsCEO@Stibo.com or visit www.stibosystems.com.