In this article Richard White provides some practical tips for helping data quality practitioners get more traction with their initiatives.
Getting People To Care About Data Quality
You are passionate about data quality and wish that business users would feel the same way. It sometimes feels like you have a selling job to do and – in effect – you have!
Seeking buy-in from your colleagues has a lot of similarities with getting someone to buy a product or service. Whilst money may not pass hands there is a price for colleagues to pay and the currency is time and attention.
Here are my 5 top tips on gaining buy-in amongst your colleagues.
#1 : Seek out VIPs
A big mistake is to put a lot of effort into getting a business case agreed and then sitting back and expecting everyone in the organisation to suddenly take data quality seriously. It pays to start developing relationships and influencing Very Influential People (VIPs).
If you can get them onside then they will become champions for change and help get other people onboard.
#2 : Focus On What VIPs Care About
We need to remember that everyone is very busy and has probably already got more things on their to-do list than they can even hope to achieve and everyday it gets more tasks added.
How can we get them to care about data quality?
The answer is actually quite easy – by linking data quality to something they DO care about. The easiest way is to find out what the other person’s greatest challenges are first and then show how better data quality will help them get it.
So, for example, if we are talking to a sales manager and they have a challenging sales target then perhaps they did not realise that better data quality would enable the marketing department to generate more quality sales leads for them.
#3 : Tell Data Quality Stories
Top sales people in this sector know the power of data quality story telling. I find using example stories very effective in gaining buy-in from VIPs.
Example stories simply give examples of how data quality has impacted similar people in other companies or, even in the same company.
The story should be focused on what the VIP's care about and how improving data quality benefited them.
#4 : Use Simple Language
It is your responsibility to make it easy for the other person to understand your communication. IT has its fair share of jargon and mnemonics and data quality is no exception. It is easy to assume that everyone knows what we mean when we talk about things like data cleansing, data rules and data profiling. If the other person is busy trying to figure out what we just said then they are unlikely to be following what we are currently saying. If we cannot avoid using mnemonics or jargon then we should let people know the meanings.
#5 : Gain commitment
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether people are serious about supporting an initiative or just telling you what you want to hear in the hope that you will leave them in peace.
A good way to test their commitment is for you to agree to take some follow-up action to their benefit and that, in return, they take an action to support the data quality initiative.
Make sure you follow through on your promise and if they follow through then it is a good sign that this someone you can work with. With the others it is a signal that you may need to influence people further up the organisation.
So how does your current approach to data quality buy-in compare?
Why not score your approach with the simple checklist below:
- Have you identified a VIP who would be an ideal champion for your project?
- Can you link your data quality initiative to something they care about?
- Do you have great stories that demonstrate clear value to the VIP?
- Is your language easily accessible to a VIP?
- Have you created some simple "calls-to-action" to gauge whether your VIP is really onboard or paying lip-service?
How did you score? 5 out of 5 or room for improvement?
Why not discuss in the comments below.