The Kiss of Death for Data Strategy

The number one question I get from clients regarding their data strategy and data governance is, “How do I create a business case?” 

This question is the kiss of death and here is why.

You created an IT strategy that has placed emphasis on helping to optimize IT data management efforts, lower total cost of ownership and reduce cost, and focused on technical requirements to develop the platform.  There may be a nod toward helping the business by highlighting the improvement in data quality, consistency, and management of access and security in broad vague terms.  The data strategy ended up looking more like an IT plan to execute data management. 

This leaves the business asking, “So what? What is in it for me?”

Rethink your approach and think like the business:

·      Change your data strategy to a business strategy.  Recognize the strategy, objectives, and capabilities the business is looking for related to key initiatives.  Your strategy should create a vision for how data will make these business needs a reality.

·      Stop searching for the business case.  The business case should already exist based on project requests at a line of business and executive level. Use the input to identify a strategy and solution that supports these requests.

·      Avoid “shiny object syndrome”.  As you keep up with emerging technology and trends, keep these new solutions and tools in context.  There are more data integration, database, data governance, and storage options than ever before and one size does not fit all.  Leverage your research to identify the right technology for business capabilities.

A sound data strategy not only puts the needs of the business first; it communicates business value in terms the executives understand.  


If only this were possible- use cases

What I've found in practice is that organizations have been indoctrinated to only understand business value through cases. Some don't understand much of anything relevant- but when they do the business case seems to be the context they can understand.

It requires an enormous amount of upfront research and effort from this side of the fence- vendor/solution provider/IP, to tailor use case scenarios, which in my previous role as consultant would cost in 6 figures for most engagements. And most expect it for free today-- and wonder why they are managed by incumbents?

One of my peers- brilliant founder/scientist in related field-- data system solution, has decided after many years of consulting some of the world's largest orgs -- internally and then externally, and then attempting to sell his system once completed to same, that EDU just doesn't work. He is now having much more success filtering not the needs and benefits of solution to customer org--which would be the logical business and org method, but rather filtering the cognitive ability of the individual decision maker.

Due to pre-existing higher functionality (with more functional cognitive ability), those orgs may only benefit by say 5% improvement rather than 50%, but it requires much less subsidy by the solution provider to deliver, and much less risk, with higher probability of success.

Looks and sounds like a wise decision to me-- those who need it most are among most likely to be unable to understand and/or implement in self-serving or other manner, and thus fail to achieve benefits. One of the key reasons why spirals maintain momentum-- negative and positive, is of course cognitive ability. Perhaps Darwinism is alive and well in data management after all?

You make a good point-- if an organization needs a business case to understand the context and value, they may still be in the learning phase--as in pre-graduate, not life-long learning, and may not be ready for higher level functionality.

Mark, you make a great point

Mark, you make a great point about readiness to adopt more sophisticated solutions. An investment can be made, but if you haven't done your homework in one area, you probably haven't done your homework in another. It is like buying a BMW and only going 35 because you don't know how to make it go 80. Without the business case known ahead, can you make your data management scream or will you be forever fighting the old limits?

On BMWs and speed

Well I think we've solved most of the problem on speed (collectively on data standards) in combination of architectural design for infrastructure, and self adaptive vehicles for each entity. And can deliver at pricing much lower than the maintenance costs of the clunkers still dominating the system, but we are struggling a bit with a few customers so accustomed to tactics of pressure sales and lock-in contracts, that they seem unable to walk away from the electronic fence even when the power is turned off. Strategic is still relatively new concept to many IT shops -- like differentiation, organizational awareness, and enduring competitive advantage-- are fairly foreign to some who seem to better relate to the mechanics in the old familiar garage with the junk yard in back. Fortunately, a few in minority have done their homework in modern R&D and emerging technological capabilities, and are content visiting museums to reflect on the (not so) good old days.