Digital Transformation: Finding your roots

Find the root cause of your problem and you’ll find the source of your success.

What is Digital Transformation?

Finding the cause of your data problems

Find the root cause of your problem and you’ll find the source of your success. Derek Corrick, Managing Director of Comma North America, shares one client’s struggle to transform their culture and communication to overcome their data challenges. 

Recently, I worked with a large industrial manufacturer who had a fundamental problem. 

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Their distributors were in the process of maturing their Product Information Management (PIM) capabilities. As such, they wanted more data, higher quality data and, above all, consistent data. Delivered electronically and in a timely manner, of course. 

That sounds like a reasonable enough request, doesn’t it? Yet this organisation struggled. The IT department in charge of the project did their best, working with data files that were regularly incorrect, inconsistent and incomplete. Much of the necessary data was spread across the organisation – in systems, in spreadsheets, in people’s brains – rather than in one central point. New requests for information could take weeks to fulfil. Add to this mix the fact that the company had not refreshed product information on their website in over two years and you start to paint a pretty bleak data picture.

Have you found the root cause of your data problems? Are you looking to transform your business into a digitally data driven organisation?

Solving the problem: Round One

A team from Marketing and IT was created to evaluate and select a PIM software package, and after several months due diligence they selected an industry leading package and kicked off their project. It was barely off the ground before it encountered significant setbacks. The problem? Data ownership. 

Although the team realised they didn’t have a central source of information, the steps they took to address this focussed on the tool itself, not the flow of data through the business. Within every manufacturer, there are a myriad of information sources - from logistics to compliance – across multiple divisions, locations and plants. For any technical data solution to work, they needed first to ask: who should be the source of which data? Who has the authority to decide what is correct? How should those decisions be enforced?

In a physical manufacturing and supply chain world this can usually be solved at a local level. Each group ensures it has the data it needs to perform its function, and they usually do it pretty well. People will always find a way to get their job done. And while that approach can work to some degree in a distributed environment where each function is more or less self-contained, what happens when information needs to be presented in a cohesive and comprehensive view to a broader audience, especially customers?

Solving the Problem: Round Two

It didn’t take the team long to realise that, although the data challenges were manifesting themselves at a sales and marketing level, the root of the challenge existed further upstream. Although they certainly needed technology to help solve their data issues, technology itself was not going to be enough.

What they needed, in a word, was “transformation”. And what they needed to transform was not data nor systems: it was the way people in their organisation thinkabout data. They had optimised their physical supply chain and the time had come to transform their “information supply chain”.

Once the team had that insight and began to address the root cause of their inability to deliver quality information to their customers, the program turned around dramatically, and they began to see rapid improvement in their results. 

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Interestingly, this initiative started as a simple PIM implementation and morphed into a digital transformation initiative. Frankly, most digital transformation programs are effectively data management projects with a fancy title. Based on this experience and others like it, I have developed a few keys to digital transformation success.

  • Don’t forget the “Transformation”. Digital transformation is 70% organizational change management, 20% business process and data, and 10% technology. 
  • Engage all the stakeholders. Although the program may be driven out of needs uncovered by marketing and sales, there are a lot of people upstream, including suppliers, buyers and merchants, that have a direct bearing on the quality, completeness and timeliness of data. Getting them to ‘buy in’ is an important part of delivering quality data.
  • Gain Strong Executive Sponsorship. Although challenging, grass roots initiatives can be successful. However, due to the number of people and departments that are typically involved in effective digital transformation, having a well-connected executive who understand the importance of quality information and what it takes to acquire and maintain it, makes for a much easier road.
  • Be Aware of Culture. Company culture has as much bearing on how organizations manage and maintain data as almost anything. Everything from how suppliers are managed, to how centralized or decentralized business units are, to the company’s overall approach to quality (shoestring vs. “do it right” attitudes) have a major impact.
  • Technology Does Matter. Although it is important not to count on technology to completely solve the information management and digital transformation challenge, having the right technology solution is an important piece to the puzzle that cannot be underestimated nor overlooked.

Talk to us about your data problems

If you need help taking these pointers on board, or want to talk about the data issues impacting your business, call me on +1 470 481 5200 or email [email protected]. At Comma, we specialise in data transformation of this kind, and have helped businesses like yours to overcome challenges and overhaul their data management.