To Evangelize IG Programs Leaders Must Create a Compelling Narrative
The road to IG ruin is paved with good intentions, both strategic and tactical.
IG and Data Management efforts are rarely considered exciting, innovative or “sexy.” By contrast, Business Intelligence (BI) enjoys a disproportionate amount of exposure, limelight and support. The elevation of Data Science practices to near-heroic stature continues to overemphasize the value of BI over IG. Ironically, BI fails without IG, as BI value is inextricably linked to the quality of IG efforts.
While there is no doubt that BI brings incredible value to an enterprise, without proper IG those efforts can prove futile. Moreover, the successful implementation and adoption of enterprise systems, and the eventual operationalization of BI results into those workflows, is directly beholden to the successful outcome of IG. The “Golden Rule of Data” –garbage in, garbage out – remains an inescapable reality.
Terminology note: For the purposes of this article Information Governance (IG) serves as an all-encompassing term the supporting organizational and functional effort (data governance, RDM, data stewardship, data cataloging and the overall category of data management) as well as the outputs (master data, reference data, metadata). BI refers to analytics and business intelligence efforts including artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science.
To win over Business Stakeholders, IG Leaders must create a compelling narrative that builds urgency, reinvigorates enthusiasm and aligns with the strategic intentions of the Enterprise. If Business Stakeholders do not understand and agree on the WHY, they will have no interest in the HOW.
While Data Storytelling and Data Literacy efforts are gaining market traction, these tend to be more focused on using BI outputs in a business setting or in a relationship-building process. An IG narrative, however, focuses on telling stories ABOUT the data rather than WITH the data. IG Leaders who seek to improve soft skills and execute simple storytelling techniques will be more likely to gain a rightful place for their initiatives on their organization’s strategic agenda.
If Business Stakeholders do not understand and agree on the WHY, they will have no interest in the HOW.
LEVERAGE THE 3VS OF DATA STORYTELLING TO EVANGELIZE THE IG NARRATIVE: VOCABULARY, VOICE AND VISION
Utilize this 3V framework to help illustrate the strategic importance of IG to the wider business stakeholder community. An IG narrative should effectively convey a balance between an ability to execute rooted in technical reality and the completeness of vision supported with compelling storytelling. (See Figure 1)
Figure 1 Characteristics of a balanced narrative
Answer these questions to approach it as an internal marketing campaign:
- Who is your target audience? (C-Level, Business Stakeholders, IG personnel)
- What behavior and perceptions need to be changed? (Greater support, improved compliance, on-going funding)
- ESTABLISH AN ACCESSIBLE VOCABULARY
Go beyond the legacy lexicon of the enterprise data management space. (See Figure 2).
Figure 2 Examples and comparison of tactical vs. strategic vocabularies
Concepts such as “cleansing” or “freshness” may be important, but they are hardly holistic and rarely strategic. Most “data hygiene” exercises are ad-hoc, campaign-based projects isolated to a siloed use case. Use strategic terms like structure, standardization and common definitions. (See Figure 2)
Answer these questions to avoid tactical technical terminology:
- What is the terminology and nomenclature used in the enterprise and industry vertical?
- What is the most granular business relationship? Customer, account, client, store, door, consumer?
- What terms are used to describe hierarchy relationships, customer segmentations and market geographies?
- How does IG grow, improve and protect the business?
- What is the IG program called?
- Does the name resonate and build excitement with the Business Stakeholders or is it just the name of the software platform?
To win over Business Stakeholders, IG Leaders must create a compelling narrative that builds urgency, reinvigorates enthusiasm and aligns with the strategic intentions of the Enterprise.
- HARMONIZE TO A COMMON VOICE
Share and propagate the narrative. Create a short, standardized overview or “elevator pitch” about IG. Avoid in-depth technical explanations. Use simple business language. Focus on results and benefits instead of process steps and features. Answer these questions:
- Where has IG already made a difference?
- What typical pain points can IG relieve?
- What major initiative and strategies relate to business relationships (customer, vendor, partner, prospect) or enterprise entities (product, brand, asset, service, offering)?
Create a collection of business success stories from collaborative partners in sales, marketing, financial, analytics and operations. Tie these anecdotes together with the common motif of IG as an enabler. Share these stories on a regular basis across your stake-holder community.
- ILLUMINATE THE BUSINESS VISION
The need for IG has never been greater. The convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information patterns are driving new business scenarios within the macro-trend of Digital Transformation. This transformation unlocks untapped value, innovative experiences and disruptive business models. In a digitally-transformed organization, data moves seamlessly from workflow to workflow and between external partners. Users can spend their time improving the relationship experience rather than questioning the data.
Part of the challenge is that IG on its own has no distinct value. It must enable other efforts. Only the rare CEO cares about data quality. But every successful CEO is passionate about customers and business relationships, as well as the quality and satisfaction engendered from products, brands, services and offerings. To identify the connections between IG and strategic initiatives, locate and rigorously review strategy documents presented by business leadership (i.e., investor day presentations, annual reports, employee newsletters, or other declarations of company intentions). Determine the role IG plays in those efforts centered around business growth, operational efficiency and risk mitigation.
IG Leaders must develop a strong narrative in order to win the hearts and minds of Business Stakeholders. Data storytelling is a critical soft skill for anybody trying to reinforce the strategic value of IG. Without a story that resonates with the business, IG risks being relegated to an internally-focused, clerical, back office, data cleansing exercise. Cutting through the cacophony of technobabble and false promises is crucial for IG success.
Storytelling is alive and well in many parts of most organizations. Seek collaboration from storytelling experts in Sales, Marketing, Enablement and Corporate Communications. Anchor the narrative in reality. Despite the claims of many vendors, Customer 360° cannot be bought off the shelf. It must be built. There is no “silver bullet” for a “golden record.”
An overarching IG program manages one of an Enterprise’s most important assets: Data. IG manages the codification and standardization of relationship types and business entities. IG enables mission critical priorities and provides the foundation for any sort of digital transformation. Explain that to your Business Stakeholders and your IG story can end “happily ever after.”