Why You Need a Data Story About Why!
Your data management data story begins with why your company exists. What does your business do? At its essence, every business wants to deliver value to their relationships through its brands at scale. Whether you are in banking or manufacturing or a media company or a digital startup, that is what you are trying to do. You have relationships, and you have brands. You want those brands to bring value to your relationships. That is the whole point of business.
Now take that apart and ask: do we have the data behind those ideas? How good is the data you have for those relationships? Customer, vendor, partner, prospect, citizen, patient, consumer. On the brand side, it is a product, service, offering, banner, asset, or location. Those are all classic master data domains. So instead of saying, “we need to improve the quality of our customer and vendor master,” turn the conversation around. Focus on the initiatives you have in the organisation to build and strengthen your relationships, transform your customer experience, or move to an as-a-service offering.
These big ideas often require the approval of the executive team. As the data management leaders, you have to show that you need the data to back those up. Do you want to transform your customer experience? Let’s talk about that. What does that mean to you? Better, deeper engagement? Predictive assortment? Dynamic pricing? Whatever that means, there is a data piece to it. There is data on customers that probably is not very good because you have duplicates. There is data on brands and products that are spread all over the organisation and incomplete. If the organisation's strategic intent is to grow through new transformational experiences, you cannot do it unless you have the data foundation.
Most data management messaging focuses on features rather than benefits. Reduce duplicates, improve poor quality data, create a golden record, build a 360-view of the customer or product. Better decision-making, regulatory compliance, effective prioritisation, increasing shareholder value—these are nice, but frankly, they can sound generic. Most business stakeholders don’t understand those root problems and don’t care about these features. They always have the same question:
Why should I care?
In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek states, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Sinek didn’t come up with the idea of WHY, but he did a great job popularising it. His audience is mostly consumer marketers and brands, but the same holds for enterprise leadership that needs to support the use of data. Although WHY is the most crucial question in business, data discussions at enterprises tend to be predominantly about the HOW: how something will be architected, how this API connects to that one, how it all works. When a business leader asks about why something will drive their business, the data person will invariably show them a massive architectural schematic, a bursting chrysanthemum visualisation, or a dizzying array of flow diagrams - which rarely explains WHY.
There is a balance, but there is also an order. If you want to understand or articulate the value of data for your organisation, and you can’t express the WHY first, then the HOW will never matter.
Excerpted with permission from Technics Publications from TELLING YOUR DATA STORY – Data Storytelling for Data Management by Scott Taylor, The Data Whisperer, of MetaMeta Consulting. The entire book is available at the links below.