Many managers still perceive data quality projects to be a technical endeavour. Data being the domain of IT and therefore an initiative that can be mapped out on a traditional project plan with well-defined exit criteria and a clear statement of requirements.
I used to believe this myth too.
Coming from a technical background as a software engineer I set out to create an increasingly elaborate technology toolkit to combat data quality issues.
The results were fleeting. Quick gains were achieved, but the organisation soon started to slide back into their old, comfortable, ways of working.
When I finally set out a vision for where I wanted to go with data quality, and why we were heading there, things started to change. People became far more supportive when they understood their role in the bigger system. They became advocates and evangelists. Passionate for the cause.
I had stumbled upon change management, and the reason some data quality projects succeed and many others fail.
A huge hurdle with IT related change is that many people don’t understand why the transformation needs to happen. They prefer to stay in their comfort zone. Management doesn't like the implication that their team is doing things wrong; that there is a better way, an approach they did not conceive. Such fear results in resistance.
To combat this fear and apprehension, you need to apply the following:
- Ownership and leadership from the top
- Alignment with the overall strategy of the organisation
- A clear vision for data quality
- Constant dialogue and consultation
Ownership from the top can be difficult because leaders are often blind to the cultural forces within their organisation that will inhibit the change. Leaders can't see the Operations Director and Marketing Director are secretly blockading any attempt to integrate systems and processes. Leaders can't understand the lack of data culture because it looks the same as every other company with which they've worked. In short, the organisation is failing to adapt and learn.
External consultants add value because they see the problem from 'outside the fish bowl', they can visualise and articulate the cultural and political systems at work. They see the whole system and how it impacts not just data quality but the wider strategy of the organisation.
Peter Senge, systems science lecturer, change expert and author of 'The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization," wrote that learning organisations are those that are "continually learning to see the whole together."
Helping your organisation ''see the whole'' is your aim as a data quality specialist. Only by doing this will you motivate your leaders to take ownership and begin the change management journey.