Love (for Data) Will Tear Us Apart

by Jim Cain

Part 1: A 4 Cs Prologue

Whether you’re a midsized company or a billion dollar enterprise, there’s a battle happening in your business that you may not be aware of, and you’d better understand it if you want to turn it into victory.

As has been repeated ad nauseum over the last few years, data is power, data is the new oil, data is the lifeblood of your business, yadda yadda.  I think at this point most people agree that these statements are true, regardless of their role in a given organization.

Additionally, leadership teams and C-suites are telling their staff they expect better results around using data for reporting and competitive advantage.

Good so far right?  We’ve all decided we love data, and we’re putting our heads down to execute and transform our businesses.

So Marketing starts buying tools, and working with a network of vendors that state they are “data first”.

IT is  thinking about the structure behind owned assets like the website and the app ecosystem, and building structure behind data schema and data layers.  

The Legacy Business Intelligence Teams are ensuring any data being made available is being exposed to the tools they use.

The Data Science Team is making sure all the data needed by the business is being funnelled into their data lake.

And these are just the groups in my world, which is marketing and sales data.  The HR team, Logistics team, Product and Merchandising teams are all probably doing similar and disparate initiatives.

What does this lead to?  

A Tag Manager that neither IT nor Marketing owns.

A Customer Data Platform that has been stalled for ages because it duplicates efforts being done by IT, was purchased by a Marketing Team that has several specific use cases but no internal support, and a Data Science or BI Team that feel it was a wasted effort because the same work could have been done internally.

Hundreds of different and disparate data tables, scattered across both the business itself and even more frightening – through the unowned systems behind the vendor and software vendor ecosystem.

And most significantly, all these internal teams are ticked off at each other and frustrated at the lack of progress.

For most businesses, thousands (and in some cases millions) of dollars are being mostly wasted on data initiatives that chase their own tails.  It’s a triple loss: 

  • You’re wasting a lot of money, 
  • you’re setting back the timelines on becoming a data-first business and perhaps most importantly, 
  • you’re souring your whole team on the potential.

The Litmus Test

If you don’t believe this is happening in your business, here’s a quick litmus test.  Email the heads of your IT, Marketing, Data Science and BI teams and ask what their key initiatives are for the quarter around data.  Also ask how they are working with colleagues in other parts of the business to accomplish their goals.

There is a very good chance you are going to get really interesting answers to the first question and no answer to the second. If this is the case, you’ve just uncovered one of the most inefficient areas in your business.

The Fix

What’s the fix?  Lock down the source of the problems and bring people together to solve them.  These are the things I try to remember when helping our clients solve this problem:

1)Data is cross-functional, it requires the whole team to work together and it can’t be solved by one department.

2)Everyone is trying to get the win for the business, and it’s the lack of workflow and alignment that is creating frustration, not people.

3)Aligned executives create aligned initiatives: This starts at the top.  Getting the executive team together to agree on goals and how their teams will contribute is a critical starting point.

4)No department owns all of the data, but every department must contribute.  When everyone works together and stays in their lane, it’s amazing how quickly things can move.

  • The Executive Team and Marketing provide requirements and timelines
  • IT provides infrastructure around creating and connecting data. (i.e owning Tag Management and CDP infrastructure)
  • DataScience and increasingly Data Operations own the data stores and ensure they are accurate, available, safe and usable.
  • Business Intelligence owns the reporting requirements of the business.

Honestly, this level of alignment isn’t happening very often, but we’re increasingly seeing businesses move in this direction, in large part due to the pressures of regulatory compliance and infrastructure changes (specifically around online cookie collection).

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Looking for a deeper dive into this topic? Then join Jim on October 6th, at 2:00 PM Eastern for Data is a 4 Letter Word where he will address this frustration that plagues organizations and executives that want to lead with data and by applying a framework he developed to translate the elusive promise and potential of ‘data-driven’, ‘big data’ & ‘data science’ into progress and results. Register Here

Jim Cain

Founder and CEO, Napkyn Analytics

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