After watching both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions I saw a pattern playing out that (believe it or not) applies to master data management (MDM) projects and ongoing data governance initiatives.


Just as a strong business case is usually important in getting initial funding, communicating your successes is critical to retaining it. But, it’s usually better to let someone else tell your story.


Assuming that you’ve taken the time to develop a compelling business case (and there’s lots of good information on how to do that – just Google “MDM business case”), make sure you build in measurable ROI, and then track your successes against those metrics.


The three classic “broad drivers” are: increased revenue, cost savings/cost avoidance and better risk management/regulatory compliance. Spell out in your business case plenty of individual benefits. You probably won’t have a single overwhelming item, but the aggregation of all of them should be attractive to the decision-makers in the enterprise.


Don’t over-promise, of course. But if you’re diligent about interviewing the individual business process owners and functional areas, you’ll find plenty of areas where more accurate, complete, timely and consistent information - the famed single view - will save money, increase sales or lead to better decision-making, governmental compliance or risk management.


However, I’ve seen many teams shelve the business case after getting the green light in their initiative. It sits on a shared folder on the network or in a manila folder on a shelf. The business case should be a living document, and you should be communicating small and large wins to the rest of the enterprise as you achieve them. Most companies have an internal newsletter, intranet or internal communications department. It may smell of marketing and PR to you, and you may be hesitant to invest too much time in the “soft stuff,” but not investing the time can be a big mistake.


At the political conventions, we saw person after person take the stage and speak the praises of each party’s nominees. Then when the principals took the podium, they didn’t have to sell themselves. Instead, they could concentrate on their message and vision.


By having a regular communications plan and widely communicating successes as they happen, you’ll avoid the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” syndrome. A success that isn’t trumpeted by the appropriate internal vehicle didn’t happen - at least in the minds of most of the company’s employees. Don’t let your wins and successes remain well kept secrets. As uncomfortable as it might make you, you’ve got to incorporate a little marketing flair into the communications plan for your MDM and data governance initiatives.


This will require patience and diligence as well as an unrelenting drive to quantify things. But so when someone steps up and challenges you on the amount of money the MDM and data governance initiative has saved or generated, you’ll be able to back up those numbers. Start an Excel spreadsheet or Access database to document things. Every piece of functionality you deliver, every information request you fulfill and every marketing or sales campaign that is driven based on information in the MDM hub should be documented.


It’s much harder to cut the funding of a joint business and IT initiative that is generating revenue and cost savings. (It still happens - I know of one customer hub project that increased revenue by over $3 million, yet still ended up running into political trouble.) Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with success. If you’ve got the numbers lined up on your side, you’ll win at least some of those battles. Without the numbers, MDM projects and data governance initiative are appealing targets because they inevitably generate sizable political angst, and MDM evangelists often end up making political enemies in the organization.


Change never comes easily, and most MDM teams are very technology-oriented and don’t pay enough attention to change management and communications. Develop those skills in yourself or find someone you can add to the team to write up success stories for the project, document and quantify them and communicate all of the information to the rest of the organization.


MDM projects can be very political. You’re asking people to allow your team to access their “data fiefdom,” suck all of their data into an MDM hub, accept that you’re going to examine the data quality levels of their data and make improvements to it. And in some cases, you’re asking to write that improved data back into their original system. No wonder there’s a lot of resistance.


However, if you get people on board from the beginning through the development of your business case, you keep them informed of the revenue increases and cost decreases the project is generating and you deliver things like the single view that the enterprise has never been able to achieve before - all in a positive, optimistic way - your odds for success go way up.

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