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Six reasons why data management projects often struggle to get off the ground

by Tim Williams on 11th February 2019

We know that data management is one of the biggest challenges that IT directors face. Almost all organisations now understand that data management can’t be ignored. The regulatory environment in which we now operate requires it. Safeguarding your data against breaches is absolutely critical. Consumer concern about privacy and the ethics of data use is growing. Unearthing the information contained within your data and turning that into competitive insights is vital if you want to stay ahead. And yet, despite the fact that almost everyone we speak to agrees with all these things, many organisations still struggle. They pay lip service to the idea of data management but the reality is very different. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. So why it this? Why is the gap between data management aspiration and reality so hard to close?

Data management keeps being kicked down the road

Sorting out data management tends to be seen as something that’s important but not urgent. Hence it often gets pushed aside in favour of other projects that are perceived to be more time sensitive or to have greater strategic importance. However, the reality is that sorting out your data IS urgent. The consequences of errors in this area are severe.  Companies that suffer data breaches can suffer irreparable damage to their brands as well as potentially being liable for huge sums in fines and compensation.

People generally understand that the consequences of a data breach are huge, but they may consider that the risk of it happening to their organisation is low. This is a big mistake. One major internet service provider reports seeing 80 billion malicious scans of websites that it hosts every single day. The number of data breaches is rising year on year and the list of well known brands that have fallen victim grows all the time. Most experts agree that it’s not a question of ‘if’ a company gets breached but rather of ‘when’. Effective data management is a vital part of your data security strategy. If you don’t know what you’ve got and where it’s stored, how can you hope to keep it safe?

Hard to get board-level buy in for data management projects

IT directors tell us it can be hard to get senior executive buy in on data management projects because other board members simply aren’t aware of the scale of the data challenges that their organisation faces. Data can be a ‘hidden problem’ – when things operate seemingly smoothly on the surface, other board members can be unaware of the complexities and fragilities that lie underneath. IT teams can become expert in patching numerous legacy systems together so that they work on a day to day basis, but the reality is that this approach doesn’t enable the kind of agility and scalability that organisations need in this fast moving data environment, as well as opening up the organisation to a greater risk of security breaches.

Executives think of data governance purely in terms of cost rather than benefit

Data governance is often a distress purchase. We talk to a lot of companies who are suddenly in the market for a data governance solution because they’ve suffered a breach, or they have a privacy issue that they can’t resolve, or they’re struggling to remain compliant with relevant legislation. Data governance is therefore often considered to be something you have to get to grips with in order to solve a problem, rather than something that offers significant benefits in its own right.

It’s important to pitch data governance not only in terms of the problems it can solve but also in terms of the benefits it can bring. Bringing your data under control gives you much greater insight into how your business operates, insight that gives you the power to make better decisions and achieve competitive advantage over your rivals. Data agility enables you to make decisions in real time, to accurately predict the future, to know which customers are going to leave before they actually do leave, to know what the ‘next best action’ is that’s most likely to persuade them to stay, and much, much more.

Data governance is seen as solely the job of the IT team

It’s often the case that data governance is seen as purely a task for the IT team, but it’s vital that line of business managers are also involved. The IT team understands the tech and knows what’s needed to bring the data together, but it’s the line of business managers who understand what the data means and how it needs to be organised. Without their input a data governance initiative is almost bound to fail.

Too often we talk to organisations who are reluctant to invest in data management on the basis that they have tried it before and it didn’t work. When we dig into this further we almost always find that the failed project was run as a standalone project within the IT team, with little or no input from the wider business. No wonder it didn’t succeed.

There’s no budget for data governance

There’s a perception in many organisations that investing in data governance isn’t realistic because it’s going to be far too expensive. There’s an assumption that data governance projects tend to be on a large scale, very resource-heavy, time consuming and hence extremely expensive. The reality is that doesn’t have to be the case. You can cut your coat according to your cloth. Indeed, we often recommend that organisations start with a relatively small ‘proof of concept’ project which aims to achieve a series of quick wins that can then be used to show what might be possible with more investment. We believe it’s vital that you can see some concrete benefit from your investment in data governance within a few weeks or months of the start of the project.

No one is prepared to be ‘the bad guy’

It can be hard for IT directors (or indeed other managers who perceive a problem) to convince the board that data governance is worth investing it, for all the reasons discussed here. Internal organisational politics can be complex, and that’s particularly the case where data is concerned. Sometimes what really helps is having external independent experts come in and tell it as it is. That’s a role that we are happy to play. Time and again customers tell us that what really made the difference was the evidence provided by the experts in the field laying things out and telling it how it is.

Next steps

Why not schedule a free, no obligation discovery meeting with VIQTOR DAVIS? In just an hour we can uncover the source of your data pain and generate some clear insight regarding how to solve the challenges you face. We have 30+ years of helping companies solve their data management problems, and we know that the same problems occur across all companies, whether large or small. Our proven data delta methodology has helped hundreds of companies already – let’s have a chat about how it might help you.

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