The Truth About Data: Heroes and Villains

People have the power to make or break your data strategy, regardless of the technology you choose. Here’s how you can turn your people into data heroes (and avoid creating data villains in the process)

At the beginning of every data project, there are data heroes and data villains. Even in a business that fully embraces data, when it comes to implementing a new data strategy or technology, there will always be different agendas and priorities at play that influence how well a project is received.

Your data heroes will be fully behind the project from the start, embracing change and driving progress. Your data villains, meanwhile, won’t be so quick to jump on board: it could be because the project conflicts with their own agenda, it could be because they dislike change, or it could be because they were backing a different solution.

Whatever their reasons, you need to convert everyone into a data hero to make your project a success – and the truth is, it’s the biggest challenge you’ll face when implementing any kind of change with your data technology or processes.

Here, we share our tips to making sure that every person in your business becomes a data hero:

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Make sure your c-suite lead by example

If you have data villains at the top, you’re going to have data villains throughout the business: a data villain’s lair, if you will. A lack of data buy-in at the top will change the way that everyone in the organisation perceives data and embraces (or rejects) data technology and processes. Leading a data culture can’t fall to the senior data lead (be it a CTO, CDO, CIO or someone else) alone, nor can it be the responsibility of a single department, like IT: all this will do is create a ‘them vs us’ culture around data rules as opposed to everyone working together towards shared goals.

Assign data champions

Create an elite task force of people throughout the business who fully buy in to your data initiatives. Again, these shouldn’t be limited to IT teams, or data professionals – they should represent every department. Your data champions will help to influence good data behaviours and be able to spot risks and weaknesses that need to be addressed, but they can also communicate feedback on the project from their colleagues and help drive sustainable change.

Create a cause

What’s the point of this data project, or process, or technology? If you’re communicating how people should handle data – for instance, data editing protocols – but not explaining why, they will never fully accept new ways of working with data and will soon fall back into old habits. Give them a purpose and a cause that they can rally around, and they are much more likely to maintain good data behaviours, even when it might feel difficult, demanding or at odds with their own ways of working.

Implement data governance (aka your heroic code)

Define what makes a data hero and give everyone a code to follow to become one. Data governance provides a framework of rules and processes that leaves nothing to guesswork: everyone has a clear remit of how they should interact with data and what’s expected of them. Data governance is one of the biggest make-or-break aspects of any data strategy – without it, even people with the best intentions can make serious and costly data mistakes.

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Eradicate data siloes for good

If you have data siloes, some people will inevitably protect them like dragons on a treasure pile. The information a data silo holds is usually precious to someone, and they will guard it – unless you can convince them otherwise. The key to tempting people away from data siloes and towards centralised data sources is, again, communication. Don’t just tell them they need to do it, sell in the value of it. These people don’t mean to be data villains: their stash of data is important to their role, and they may be concerned that its quality or availability is going to be negatively impacted by migration to a new platform, like MDM or PIM. You, as a business, need to illustrate how it will work and explain how new ways of working will benefit them.

Implement the right data platform

Selecting the right tool is crucial to getting everyone onboard with your data strategy. A platform that is difficult to use, at odds with the outcomes you’re trying to achieve, or missing key functionalities that are essential to parts of the business, will create more villains than heroes. Enlist third-party support to make sure you’re getting the technology you really need and implementing it effectively.

To uncover more home truths about data, download our latest guide below: 'The Truth About Data'.

The Truth About Data

Here, we put data management in the spotlight to reveal the truth about data, including...

  • De-mystifying the acronym economy
  • Data Governance shortcuts for your business
  • Data foundations every organisation needs
  • The limitations of technology
  • How to navigate 'industry insights'
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