This topic seems to have increased in interest in the past several years. I see it in conference presentations, white papers, and webinars through e-mails I receive daily. A lot of presenters and writers seem to think that the best way to start is to “educate” upper management on the benefits of data management, the dire things that might happen if they don’t manage data, the techniques and tools of the trade, and to evangelize about all the reasons why this is simply the right thing to do.
It is estimated that 80% of customer’s motivations are to move AWAY from pain, while only 20% are motivated to move TOWARDS pleasure (or the ‘right thing to do’). It makes good business sense then to invest the data manager’s time and energy to understand the pain points and problems of the customer. Once they are identified it’s time to ask one question. Just “why”? “Why do you want to solve this problem?” and then really listen to the answer. The vast majority of clients start by wanting to get out of a pain situation. Once they have a trust relationship with you (and are out of immediate pain), then you can begin to educate them. If I have a headache I want the aspirin, not a lecture about caffeine withdrawal. Maybe once my head isn’t pounding I might listen to a suggestion about the source of this and future headaches.
So the best ways I know to ensure the success of data management and governance initiatives are to attach them to significant pain points in the organization. Start with a headache, maybe even a big headache, and I bet there will be a data component that contributes to it. It’s best to attach the effort to significant business headaches rather than to corporate kidney failure at the start. As problems are being solved, data standards developed and implemented the organization won’t have to be ‘sold’ anything – they will simply want more of what you have to offer.