By Anna Li
Executive sponsorship for a Master Data Management project is a must if you want it to be successful and scalable. Executive sponsorship stands out among key success factors for MDM projects. This article will help you win over your executive sponsor in five steps and pave the way for a successful enterprise-wide MDM strategy.
Are you tired of spending hours consolidating critical information that’s scattered in various applications? Are you frustrated by manually cleansing data over and over again? Are you unsure about the demographics of your most loyal customers? Is dirty data contaminating your entire decision process?
Organizations everywhere are tapping into master data management (MDM) to solve these types of data challenges. And they’re reaping widespread benefits, from increased operational efficiency to optimally targeted campaigns and revenue growth. Over the past decade, MDM has become a critical element of data management. Moreover, it can be one of the most exciting data initiatives resulting in the integration of systems, data, people, and processes.
A wide-reaching MDM project requires leadership and corporate support. That’s why solid executive sponsorship stands out among key success factors. This article will help you win over your executive sponsor in five steps and pave the way for a successful enterprise-wide MDM project.
Five Steps for Securing Executive Sponsorship for a Master Data Management Project
- Master your domain
- Identify good business sponsors
- Empower your sponsor, make your case
- Win over your sponsor
- Hit the ground running
Master your domain
If your company suffers from data quality challenges, you’re not alone. Recognizing your need for MDM is the first step. But to get ahead, you need to understand business pain points to persuade your team and your potential sponsor that MDM is the solution.
For example, knowing that you need clean hierarchies to segment the market isn’t enough justification for an MDM project. You’ll never get anyone excited if you expose MDM as a data plumbing exercise. You’ll have to dig deeper and unearth the costs and missed opportunities your enterprise suffers from because you don’t have MDM.
Adapt and use the following discussion triggers to increase awareness of the need for MDM within your organization:
• “Without a centralized vision of our products, even minor updates to our product information create chaos across all departments – from
development to marketing to sales and along the supply chain…”
• “How can we represent a single merged view of our customers when our customer data is stored in disparate systems? These duplicates impact our current consolidated reports…”
• “How can we get an idea of missed sales opportunities if our customers are recorded in four different systems?”
• “The latest results from our customer satisfaction survey show that most customers are complaining about having to log in with different accounts and not having a single place to find all their past transactions, including the transactions with our partner stores…”
• “Management isn’t able to report consistent revenue across entity groups, locations, or customer segments. How can they drill down by parent company, by customer, by delivery point, or by key strategic accounts?”
Identify Key Business Sponsors
Now that you have a substantial business story, how do you select the appropriate sponsor? Executive sponsors offer more than just management, support, and respect among co-workers for the MDM project. Projects with sponsors “are three times more likely to have high levels of resources and budget devoted to their master data,” according to a 2012 Aberdeen Group study on the state of MDM.
Excellent sponsors embody qualities that do more than just keep the project on track; they push your enterprise forward and inspire your team to pull through the project. These questions will help point you toward the right sponsor:
Fortitude: Will your sponsor be by your side when the going gets tough? MDM is a journey. Quick wins will help keep momentum, but there can be daunting hurdles, such as bad data, resistance to change, or the temptation to revert to manual fixes using Excel, which can all hold the project back.
Empathy: Does your sponsor understand your pains, your stress, and your frustration? Has he or she experienced the same struggle? If so, your sponsor will be much more engaged and willing to help you.
Motivation: Will the project make you operationally successful? If your sponsor does not have real incentives to fix things, why would he/she? Getting your project supported for political reasons will only last until there is another new shiny project.
Expertise: Does your sponsor truly understand what you are trying to do? These days, everyone will drop the latest buzzwords to look good. But does your sponsor comprehend that data is part of a bigger picture where people, processes, and technology are equally important?
Go-getter: Will your sponsor push you to finish what you start? An executive sponsor should not settle for PowerPoint or Excel mockups and should require tangible deliverables. Yes, this could put additional pressure on you, but it will work in your favor. It will prevent naysayers from coming up with “me too” hacks and workarounds that will cast doubt and could sabotage your project. You can’t hack governance and compliance. Lineage and versioning are not something you track on the fly. Spreadsheets will never scale. Use your
sponsor’s pragmatism to stay on track and keep your bearings.
Make Your Case: Bringing ROI to the Forefront
Once you’ve identified the appropriate person to sponsor the program, it is time to show numbers. The biggest barrier to recruiting a sponsor is the perceived lack of MDM Return on Investment (ROI). Therefore, your priority is to build your business case and determine ROI metrics.
Systems are implemented to address pains: If everything works, why make a process more complex by adding new systems? Establish the business case based on the pain points you have identified, but don’t make anything more complex than needed. Avoid building a Rube Goldberg machine.
How do you establish metrics? Let’s consider two axes:
- Time and resources (people, material, or energy):
- How much will you save on your process per year?
- How many people spend their days cleaning data? Multiply this by the employees’ hourly wages.
- How many deliveries don’t reach their destination because of inaccurate addresses? Think about the costs of gas and drivers’ hourly rates.
- How much marketing outreach is duplicated or mistargeted?
- Measure the cost of mailing and e-mailing.
- How many additional, better-qualified leads could you chase with more sales focus?
- How much of a difference in revenue would a 5 percent increase in curated leads make?
- How many useless operations will MDM eliminate?
- How much more productive could you be if you didn’t have to sift through 2GB spreadsheets or 5,345 hand-coded lines of data?
- What risks are you taking with regulations and compliance when following this lack of transparency and exposure to manual errors?
Winning Over Your Sponsor: Closing the Deal
Sponsors frequently perceive MDM initiatives as drawn out with low chances of success. Because their reputation and even jobs might be at stake for sponsoring your project, you need to assure your sponsor that the MDM project will be a success.
To help your sponsor sleep at night, you need results, and fast:
1. Focus on one domain and start with a simple model (two to three entities). MDM will be faster to implement if you follow KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principles to facilitate consensus.
2. Integrate two sources to test the rules and model at a small scale and assess the way matching can work.
3. Import the first batch of data using flat files if ETL is not yet ready.
4. Show your sponsor that you are not engaging in a dead-end project by running an end-to-end test of your solution early on. Go full cycle and run profiling; do an initial certification of your master data; expose the UI to your users; run a few edits or creation workflows; and publish the first governance metrics. If anything has to hit the wall, let it be now.
5. Show dashboards of what is going on, including duplicates, rejects, and master-golden records. Show transparency early to secure confidence.
6. Run a few high-volume tests to anticipate future performance.
Hit the Ground Running
Don’t fall into the trap of glorified demos with screenshots and slide decks. Go beyond slides – demonstrate how MDM works, live.
Show how MDM interacts with your organization. Take advantage of real software. Build a live prototype or Proof of Value (POV)
to deliver a complete solution at a small scale, in a short time frame, and at a low cost.
This guerilla method will win out over a “big bang” approach every time. Because their reputation and even jobs might be at stake for sponsoring your project, you need to assure your sponsor that the MDM project will be a success.
Here are a few critical ways you can get started:
- Call for a POV to observe the efforts and resources required to run the solution. What better way to provide your sponsor with total transparency?
- Schedule a demo or use our interactive demo tool to explore on your own time and speed.
- Ensure you utilize our complimentary ROI calculator to produce an accurate picture around metrics.
- Use real data. Sign an NDA and a solid service agreement to protect confidentiality and enforce proper handling.
- Involve your team; encourage them to work with the vendor. Have them start exploring tutorials and documentation.
- Set an aggressive deadline. It shouldn’t take more than two to three weeks.
This is the best way to demonstrate the value of your MDM initiative to your executive sponsors and prove that they made the right bet on you.
Hear From The Experts on Getting Executive Buy-In
Becoming a data-driven organization is an increasingly important goal for organizations across all industries. But how do data leaders get executives on board for Data Management as a core foundation of a data-driven organization? This webinar gives practical advice and real-world tips on getting started.
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