I had another of those calls with an end user today that I have all too frequently. The emphasis on M&A was a little more than normal, but the underlying premise and my response was predictable. It went like this (and I include some actual quotes):
Setting: Consumer Goods Manufacture
- We are acquisitive; we are in the process of merging one of our recent Canadian acquisitions. We have more ‘sister’ companies to merge/consumer in the next few years
- We will acquire more companies – it is what we do
- There is a bus load of consultants all over us, ongoing.
- We have a heterogeneous application landscape, centered on XXX (vendor name goes here), and we are in the middle of a multi-year project to consolidate onto fewer moving parts
- We have thousands, thousands of parts and products in our “material master” but we don’t know what is there; what is obsolete; what is complete; what is used wrongly etc.
- We don’t have any real up to date knowledge on what field means what, to whom
- We are making money, our margins are OK, and no one in the business is interested in anything to do with MDM or information governance**
- We do have problems with product data- how can you help?
** since there is no perception for how MDM or IG helps with revenue or margins and is seen more often than not as about control and restrictions [my interpretation].
My bottom line was that there is a fork in the road here – and this organization needed to be clear which they need or want to take:
This is the path that the majority of organizations have taken in the last 20 years. It works; its relatively easy (compared to fork 2 or other options); there is a reasonable chance that a business case or ROI can be determined; its less invasive (to what business does); and since a lot of other firms have done this, this kind of works.
Fork 1 is called “data quality project”.
You pay a 3rd party to take a data store with a target state, and they get the data into a state that is desired. There is a lot of good work that goes into this that I won’t repeat here. The point is that this a PROJECT. It ends. The data comes back and the 3rd party goes away.
There are no changes to the business processes that create, use or abuse this data. There is no information governance. There is no MDM. As such, within 17 seconds, the quality, consistency and overall integrity of the data in new shiny hub starts to erode. Anywhere between 18 and 36 months, your organizations needs to come back to do this all over again.
Again, this works. But only so far. Maybe far enough…
This fork builds on the outcome of Fork 1 – in other words, Fork 2 needs Fork 1 but it adds something. It adds the necessary changes to business processes, organization, roles and so oon in order to support an operational information governance program (like MDM) that ties governing information to specific and measurable business outcomes.
This is hard work. This is not that common (yet). This tends to be invasive – this will change the way users create, use and abuse data. This fork tends to reduce the need to repeat Fork 1 work very 18 to 36 months. This fork tends to support many other business cases and drivers, not just those that were identified as dependent on data in a field. For example, Fork 2 will also tend to support reduced time to market (think Supply Chain); product/part re-use (think engineering) etc
And the insidious thing about this conversation, and almost every one like it? The consultants are being paid very well, thank you, yet the client knows (not at the right level of the business) that there disease related to their data is just festering away nicely.
Of course I am aware that business success is not predicted on governed information. Some of the most successful firms today have very poor information governance. But it tends to help; and it’s a sign that the right kind of DNA is being adopted….