Data “Fitness” is Key for Long-Term Corporate Success

August 1, 2017

In my role, I spend much of my time explaining and educating enterprise executives and managers alike in the value of investing in data management programs. I often have my work cut for me. For example, here are some memorable quotes I’ve heard from CXOs:

  • Utilities CIO: “We’re a regulated industry and we operate well enough on a day-to-day basis; I think I can live without knowing our percentage data quality.”
  • Regional Banking COO: “I just don’t see the value in investing in Data Quality initiatives.”
  • Retail Group CIO: “We just migrated to a new SAP system and our data was fine when it went live. So our data is good, right?”

When I am confronted by mind-sets like those above (besides taking a deep calming breath), I think of how best to influence a change of opinion. I find that metaphors are an effective way of communicating the value of “trusted and assured” organizational data. One metaphor that resonates is the comparison of data fitness to physical fitness (full disclosure – my undergraduate degree is a BS in Nutritional Science).

Quality And Quantity

We have all met people who treat their body as a temple – they exercise, eat a balanced diet, don’t drink or smoke in excess, etc. We’ve also met those who do the opposite, i.e., they don’t “look after themselves.”

I remember reading once that due to advances in medical care, both categories of people described above would likely live to be the same age but they would experience a significant difference in the quality of life, especially as they get older.

Let us circle back to the metaphorical bridge between individual fitness and organizational data fitness. Like the two groups of people described above, organizations make choices related to “trusted and assured” data. These decisions are largely based on organizational principles.

Getting Fit for Competition

Organizations with “unhealthy” data will still operate – for a time – but they will be plagued with chronic issues interspersed with acute life threatening issues requiring emergency intervention: i.e., fines due to regulatory non-compliance, missed market opportunities, or supply chain and procurement disruptions, etc.

Companies who don’t pay attention to objectively define, measure and monitor “fit-for-use” data will find themselves at risk. Moreover, the focus needs to reflect the unique nature of their business. Organizations that lack a well-oiled data management program will eventually succumb to competitors with more disciplined data fitness routines. Ultimately “data fit” companies can reap the rewards and benefits from data-driven decisions including: optimized resources, reduced risk, cost transparency/containment, and increased business opportunities overall.

Stick With It

Admittedly our attention to good health – both as individuals and collectively as organizations – commonly lapses. However, recognizing substandard performance is the first step to select the right intervention strategy to get back on track (we see roughly one-third of projects in this state). For example, we recently worked with an energy company that had stumbled on its data quality journey three times before implementing a sound strategy, but they were willing to persevere and get their data fitness right.

Like individual health, organizations that take the time to adopt the right data stewardship and information governance fitness regime will ultimately see the health of their full organization improve. With this foundation of proactive and preventative support in place, enterprises will then be poised to thrive competitively in their marketplaces.

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