Five challenges that most data management projects face

by Kate Tickner on 30th May 2018

Most organisations nowadays know that they could be doing more with their data, and for many GDPR has provided the impetus to finally get on and actually do it.  Compliance projects are a great opportunity to think about the data you hold, how you collect it and how you use it, and for many organisations thinking about GDPR has led to the launch of other data management projects. (For more information on why Entity Group sees GDPR as a data management problem read our white paper here).

However, success in data management projects is far from guaranteed. Gartner estimates that as many as 85% of big data projects fail. So why is this, and what can you do to maximise the chances of your own data management project succeeding?

What most data management projects boil down to is that an organisation wants to bridge the gap between the data it holds and the information it needs. That might be through establishing a single view of customer, or it might be through using data to detect fraud, or to better manage a large asset base.

Whatever it is, the challenge amounts to the same thing: how to take the data you already have and turn that data into actionable information that can be used within the organisation. At Entity we refer to the gap between the data you have and the information you need as the data delta.

So, why can crossing the data delta be so difficult?

Number Five

Here are five issues we commonly see within organisations that struggle with data management.

  1. The tool is seen as the solution – it’s common for organisations to define the problem as a technology problem: “If only we had the right database / CRM system / visualisation tool (delete as appropriate) then all our problems would be solved.” The truth is there’s no magic wand that can be waved, no shiny new tech that can be applied to your data that will magically work out what information you need. The data management challenges lie much deeper than that. For example, at a recent industry event I attended it was generally agreed that people and culture are far more difficult to tackle than technology can be.
  2. Crossing the data delta is framed as an IT problem – when we ask clients who in their organisation ‘owns’ their data, the most common answer we get is that it’s the IT team. In our view that’s generally a mistake. The IT team will of course be closely involved in any data management project, but they shouldn’t be seen as the owners or custodians of the data as they’re rarely the people best placed to answer the most important question: “What information do we need?” That’s a strategic question so can only be answered by the people responsible for making business decisions within your organisation, the line-of-business managers.
  3. Data management is viewed purely as a cost, not as a benefit – Many data management projects are framed internally as purely being a cost. This is particularly the case with GDPR, as many organisations feel that they’re being forced into addressing issues of data management purely from a compliance standpoint. Looking at it that way is a mistake. Data is one of the most valuable assets that your organisation has. Why wouldn’t you want to take the opportunity to do more with it? To make sure it’s accurate? To understand what it’s telling you? This view, of data as an asset, needs to permeate throughout the whole organisation, from the top down. Only when the people at the very top of your organisation are truly committed to the idea that data is an asset can your organisation change.
  4. Trying to do too much in one go – As the old adage goes, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Resist the temptation to bite off more than you can chew, to try and address all the data issues within your organisation simultaneously. We work all the time with organisations that might have 20 or 30 strategic enterprise-level systems. It’s laudable to want to standardise key customer information everywhere across all these systems, but the reality is that’s going to take longer that anyone’s prepared to wait. We recommend breaking down the project into manageable chunks, each designed to be completed in six months or less (our Entity Method for crossing the Data Delta recommends taking a thin slice through the organisation’s data – download your free copy of our book for more information on this). It’s critical to start delivering measurable benefits within this timescale. Any longer than this and the organisational commitment to the project begins to fade.
  5. Viewing data management as a one-off project rather than an ongoing process – There’s no real endpoint with data management, no point at which you can consider the job done. It’s an ongoing process, so success can’t be defined in terms of reaching the end of the project. As discussed already, it’s important to be able to start delivering quick wins within six months so that people can see tangible differences and benefits coming from the data management project. Everyone needs to understand that data management is really about culture change. Once the organisation has a shared view of data as an asset then the idea of the data management project as a single one-off activity starts to fade.

At Entity Group we have 30 years’ experience of helping clients cross the data delta, dealing successfully with people, process, technology and all the challenges these represent. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you why not request a free 2 hour data strategy session?