Luke Skywalker needed Yoda to show him how to take his expertise and tools and turn that into a force bigger than himself. Bilbo Baggins needed Samwise Gamgee to support his efforts to meet his goals and complete the project set before him. Neo needed Morpheus to open his eyes to see the problem before him in a new light. For data programs to be successful, the business needs to be involved early and often. There are many reasons this involvement leads to success, but here are 7 big ones:
1) Data Decisions are Technology Neutral
When taken from a high level, the decisions made about data need to be made regardless of the storage mechanism, transfer tool, visualization widget, or processing magic that works on that data. Getting an understanding of the decisions that are made from the data, and the rules and policies that need to govern the data, regardless of tooling gives an untainted understanding of the need and importance of the data.
2) Data Drives Business Processes
In 2015, you would be hard pressed to find a core business process in play at an organization that is not driven, at least in part, by data. A data program exists to further a business need and the understanding of that need is required in order for the data activities to be planned and completed correctly. 93 octane gasoline can be perfectly good gasoline but put into my 1997 Ford Ranger would cause the engine to sputter out and stop working. Perfectly good data that is not in tune with a business process is bad data.
3) The Business Owns the Data
As with any initiative in business, involvement and buy-in from the owners is key to getting the proper support and inputs needed to be successful. When it comes to data, the business is the owner. This owner cannot only be an invaluable resource of information, but can also share the ownership of the program and help drive it to completion.
4) Buy In Leads To Stickiness
As a data program evolves, often so does the team involved in the program. As roles and responsibilities change, the inevitable rolling on and rolling off of resources into the program will happen and so too will the knowledge transfer involved in these transitions. Involving the business users early and often in these programs will keep the programs fresh, relevant and top of mind so that the proper transition occurs and keeps the good work done by the program running regardless of the makeup and structure of the organization.
5) Right Data, Right Time, Right Format, Right Person
When implementing a data program, getting the right data to the right person at the right time and in the right format can make or break the adoption of the findings, processes and outcomes of a data program. The only way to determine the right person, the data that person cares about, when the person needs the data, and in what format they can consume the data is to involve these key users from the beginning and throughout the program. Without this involvement, it will come down to guess work and assumption.
6) Data Strategy Is Derived From Business Strategy
Data initiatives and programs are either in furtherance of an overall data strategy or should adhere to the standards and policies set forth by the data strategy of an organization. This data strategy ties back to the KPIs and key drivers of the business and there is no better way to understand and check point the data program against these key indicators then to engage the owners of these indicators and strategy – the business.
7) Insight Comes From Use
There are insights, realities and findings that can come no other way then from using the data. It is through using the data and understanding its nuances within the scope of the business that the true insights into the needs of the data can be found. These insights are key drivers into the decision-making and prioritization efforts of any data program. The greater the insight and input from the business, the better the program will enable the business to be successful.
There is a line in the Lord of the Rings where Samwise tells Bilbo “I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you.” Involving the business early and often into data programs can form a team that is greater then the sum of its parts and lead to accomplishments within data programs well beyond what can be accomplished separately.
Engage early, engage often.
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