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Tips to Sell Data Management to Executives

Persuading executives, managers, and other leaders about the need for data management and its components is as important as the best practices themselves. 

Data Management professionals attending educational events such as TDWI, EDW DAMA, Data Governance Conference, International Oracle Users Group, Teradata Partners, or International DB2 Users Group can find some wonderful presentations, excellent best practices, and great opportunities for new tools or more effective use of the tools already installed.

In addition, one can discover new ideas, and how to refine many existing ideas for the environment.  However, if a professional cannot sell them to management, they are just ideas that will find no home.

How does a data management professional present those jewels in a way that will resonate with management and the executives?  In most cases, the persuasion relies on a presentation, probably in PowerPoint (sometimes called a “deck”).  Actually, a good professional should prepare a set of presentations geared to the organization’s diverse audience.  The IT people will get a different set than the business folks with different terminology and different appeals.  The length of the presentation will differ, depending on the audience’s attention span and their level of interest in the topic and their responsibilities.

What should be included in this presentation?  First, create a good title that will intrigue the listeners and will encourage them to schedule and attend the presentation.  The hook is both the statement of the problem (pain points and / or the opportunities) as well as the promise of a solution.

Pain Points

What are the most important issues or the current pain points  that the data management program (or data governance, or metadata management, or data warehousing / business intelligence, or data quality, or master data management) can help solve? Look for management issues that can be measured: such as customer attrition, employee resignations, decreased sales, failure of new marketing programs, problems in integration of acquired customers, supplier problems, issues of product quality, competitive activity, or increased delivery costs. It is important to accurately represent the metrics related to the organization’s pain points.  For example:

“Why Have Our Customers Abandoned Us?”

The presentation should present the facts showing current customer attrition compared to previous periods and present the lost revenue from these ex-customers.  Also, if possible, indicate how the competition has recruited your old customers, using data management domains (data governance, metadata management, data quality, etc.) as categories for this analysis.  The presentation should have slides on the reason for the attrition such as outsourced customer support, decrease in customer satisfaction, competitive marketing and offerings, poor product quality, or late deliveries, again using references to the data management domain that could have prevented this problem or that identified it.

“Why Have Product A Sales Tanked?

The presentation should show the trend of decreased sales of Product A over the last two years by month or by quarter, depending on how the organization typically measures sales.  The slides would show sales by region, by channel, and by sales organization, demonstrating the power of master and reference data management.  If this is not an easy task, mention its difficulty and the reason MDM is a valuable component in many forms of analysis.  Other slides would have the marketing programs associated with products and MDM, and the quality of data for each product line, as well as information about customer satisfaction measurements, warranty metrics, and competitive activity. The presentation could conclude with how data management and its components could support improvements in product development, marketing, and analysis.

“Why Did our New Marketing Program Fail?”

The presentation should have a slide or two on the specific marketing program, its intended audience, expected acceptance rate, and cost per acquisition or conversion, with the data management domains that support this data as reference (metadata management, data governance, data quality, etc.).  The presentation would have ideas and recommendations for improving the improving the data management efforts to support results of future programs.

Opportunities

Based on the practices where other organizations have achieved excellent results, suggest major improvements in the way the organization can improve data quality, implement a metadata initiative, make better use of tools, make BI analysts more productive, and bring projects in on time and within budget. For example:

“BI Analyst Productivity – What Are We Missing?”

The presentation should describe the BI Analyst community, where they report, their level of training, their activity using various tools, and their level of satisfaction with response time, availability, data quality, training, and support.  The slides could make some comparisons with the rest of the BI Analyst world in each of these categories.  The slides might recommend a BI Competency Center and indicate what resources would be required to build and staff the center. A high level plan with dates, activities, roles and responsibilities would complete the action plan.

“Let’s Look at Lowering Hardware Cost through Consolidation”

The presentation could show the server farm and which databases were on each server. The slides would show redundancy and indicate opportunities for consolidating databases, integrating data, and minimizing redundancy.  The slides would prioritize which databases could be consolidated, which servers could be sun-setted, and the cost savings for each initiative.  Note that the cost savings go beyond just the hardware but should include the labor savings in administering and maintaining the hardware and the reduced effort in reconciling results from redundant data and their spawn.

“Bad Data – How Bad is it?”

The presentation may show how data quality is measured currently, the actual results of data quality profiling (missing data, data that does not match valid values, outliers, non-unique data, data violating business rules), and the trends in each category. The slides could indicate the cost, the embarrassment, the missed opportunities, or the regulatory fines associated with historical data quality problems.  The presentation would suggest activities and standards to improve data quality along with role and responsibility assignments and how this problem and opportunity could be monitored regularly.

“Metadata – It’s About Time to Make a Commitment”

The presentation would give an introduction to metadata including what metadata would be valuable to the organization and the audience. The slides would show what metadata is currently captured and available and how it’s being used today in a limited fashion.  The presentation would suggest additional activities to build, populate, and maintain a metadata repository along with the roles and responsibilities required to make it happen.

“Our Tools are Being Underutilized”

The presentation could display the data management tools that are used currently, how they are used, their effectiveness, and any problems associated with the products.  The presentation would give an historical perspective of each tool’s usage, and their suitability for each application. The slides could explain how other organizations are using the tools, suggest ideas for more effective use of the tools, perhaps some consolidation, sun-setting a product or two, and how to manage the vendors for improved support or other vendor involvement.

“We Can Bring Our Projects in on Time and Within Budget”

The presentation would show the results of major projects, conformance to schedule, budget, quality, and function delivered, and focus on the data management aspects that affect project success. The slides would have the results of lessons learned from the projects and ideas for improvement. The slides would also have best practices from other organizations on how they brought the project in on time and within budget. The presentation would have specific recommendations on project planning, scheduling, budgeting, cost justification, and project follow-up for each relevant domain in enterprise data management.

“Let’s Take Credit for ‘Sustainability’ Activities”

The presentation could describe the activities the organization has established that contribute to our planet’s sustainability including decreased use of energy and water, less physical waste, recycling, and lower transportation activities – highlighting the data management components that contribute to sustainability.  The slides would show cost historical savings, trends, and how these savings are measured.  The presentation could suggest additional opportunities for sustainability cost savings and how the organization could use enterprise data management to improve their place in the environment.

Conclusion

Every data management professional should learn how to market and sell their data management / data governance / metadata management / data warehouse and BI / data quality / master data management program.  Marketing and promoting the value and benefits of data management and its constituent components is as important as the programs, since without visibility through marketing, the programs will not be approved or sustained.

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Sid Adelman

Sid Adelman founded Sid Adelman & Associates, an organization specializing in planning and implementing Data Warehouses. He has consulted and written exclusively on data warehouse topics and the management of decision support environments.

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