All Data is Local: Playing Nice in the Global Sandbox

October 28, 2014 Nate LaFerle

Image_The Global Data and Local Data Sandbox

The playbook for a typical ERP implementation involves a phased merger of multiple geographic or business units into a single global instance, and the business case often includes efficiencies gained from shares, globally-owned and governed data. Perfect, harmonized global data is then shared seamlessly by all interested parties who never disagree on its content.

That’s a great idea in concept.

In reality, three trends tend to emerge; some impacting certain domains more than others, but they do generally occur in order:

  • Oldest Child Syndrome: The first country or pilot business unit to deploy spends a significant amount of time as the only user of the global instance, usually in a time when the global governance organization is also in its infancy. This leads to a perception that it owns certain global data simply because it got there first. There’s a sense that later deployments should follow its lead, because its users have had more time to learn the system. This, of course, neglects the reality that later deployments tend to benefit from lessons learned in past releases.
  • Data Narcissism: Often, in-country users are accustomed to a certain level of autonomy when it comes to master data. Occasionally, they resent the additional layers of red tape that a data governance organization imposes on them. Often coming from an environment in which data governance is a foreign concept, users fall into a trap of, “This looks wrong . . . I’ll just fix it so it works for this order.”
  • Tragedy of the Commons, the polar opposite of data narcissism.Once data is accepted as global, it can lead to ownership gaps and local disengagement from ensuring high-quality global data. Many global data organizations require eyes and ears on the ground to identify issues and resolve open questions about content. As projects progress, the response from local teams is often, “Not my problem” – until, of course, a local business process is disrupted by a global data quality issue, at which point it becomes urgent that the global team immediately address it.

The adage that “all politics is local” is appropriate to borrow here in two ways. All data is local data at the point when it’s actually used in business processes. It’s hard to blame resources who are not accustomed to a delineated split in ownership for acting to keep their businesses moving as smoothly as they know how. In another twist of the phrase, it also means that the messaging must be locally tailored to ensure local resources understand, accept and execute globally-focused processes.

A few steps can be taken to mitigate these tendencies that prevent local users from manipulating global data:

  • Clear escalation points, bidirectionally, between global and local teams – Ensure that local teams are able to efficiently raise issues with global resources, and that global resources are able to quickly clarify needed information from local resources. If executed properly this will discourage local teams form taking matters into their own hands.
  • Clear and detailed ownership published – In modern ERP systems, the handoff from global to local can occur within an object – for example between the header and the detail or extension. Ownership must be clearly delineated at that very fine level of granularity to minimize “gray areas” of ownership.
  • Efficient resolution processes to ensure that issues raised can be resolved in a timely enough manner to avoid negative business impact – If the governance organization cannot demonstrate a high level of competency and efficiency, local resources often see this as an opportunity to resolve internally to avoid process breakdowns.
  • Accountability through persistent data validation and audit reports, identifying global data that has been locally maintained, as well as other process violations.

The push and pull between global and local teams in the early stages of a rollout is often a difficult organizational challenge during a global software implementation, and it’s infrequently considered in OCM planning. Recognizing it as it occurs can help mitigate these tendencies at an early stage and promote a positive and functional relationship between global and local teams.

About the Author

Nate LaFerle

Nate LaFerle brings extensive enterprise data management experience through large-scale global data strategy and migration engagements in retail, manufacturing, finance, pharmaceuticals and the public sector. Based in Chicago, he currently leads a multi-year BackOffice engagement at a Fortune 500 life sciences organization.

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