Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corporate Data Program: Where to Start?

The following post represents the third installment of my data strategy presentation.

There are likely to be many approaches to initiating a corporate data strategy but, for my money, I would start with product metadata. Theoretically, this is data you maintain the most control over (you will find out if you actually do during your initial review). In my opinion, product metadata should be considered the basic foundation upon which to build a corporate data strategy.  

On this foundation, a “data value” can be assigned to all the data a business produces. Product data might also be seen as the data asset from which all other corporate data flows. For example, as businesses begin to generate more user/transaction data, this information will be far more valuable if it is tied back to robust product metadata. Establishing your corporate data strategy around product metadata also has another advantage in that the company is always best placed to manage the information that describes their products.

How companies describe and interrelate information about their products is increasingly viewed as the most proactive activity a company can impose on supply-chain partners (or directly to consumers) in order to positively impact sales. The deeper, more descriptive and interconnected the metadata is, the better all products will perform in a sales environment that is increasingly congested. Unfortunately, only a small number of companies manage their data in a uniform manner and, typically, descriptive metadata continues to be poorly managed and locked in silos deep within organizations. Ironically, if the logic of a “corporation” as a collection of assets makes sense from a financial point of view, isn’t that logic undermined by the disaggregation of information about the collective assets of the organization?

For many companies, this describes their product data management ‘philosophy’. As such, their data management is more reflective of their own internal structures rather than a pragmatic understanding of the mechanics of their markets. Just as consumers seek products and services – often via search – in the broadest sense and not in accordance with artificial corporate hierarchies, the smart approach to product metadata management would be to centralize it at a broad or corporate level. This approach would facilitate the most effective integration of all products so that the best combination of product options can be presented to a customer.

In choosing product data as the first practical implementation for your data-strategy effort, your team will also benefit from an existing set of methodologies, policies and procedures. (This wouldn’t necessarily be the case if you were to choose customer data or web traffic data, for example.) In launching this first initiative, your internal communications will want to explain to the individual business units and the business as a whole what benefits they will realize as the project becomes operational. All participants in the metadata initiative will be striving for a ‘future state’ where each business and constituency will be able to spend more time analyzing and leveraging better and more complete data. Thus, the future state will be materially different than the “legacy environment,” where staff spend their time chasing and remediating data rather than benefiting from value-added tasks supporting their business units.

In my next post, I will spell out in more detail what benefits may accrue from this initiative but, overall, they include the application of scale economies to the management of data, the attribution of control mechanisms (such as thesauri) and a greater ability to merge and mingle metadata to improve revenues.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

This has been one of the most useful and enlightening blogs I've ever read. We have a staff meeting on Friday and I've printed out these installments so we can discuss it. Thank you!