Breaking Down Silos Improves Your Data Quality
Possibilities Podcast Episode: 3
Who owns “data quality” in your organization?
If your answer is, “that’s the IT department’s job!” you may have some issues to solve.
Stefanie started in IT about 20 years ago in a non-traditional way. Her undergraduate degree is in accounting, and at one point she was solely focused on solving accounting related issues. She learned to use technology to solve all sorts of business problems, and she loves living in world of data. It just makes sense to her.
Stefanie saw that Aspect Software had some serious data quality issues and that everyone was assuming that the IT department would clean up any problem. It took a long time, but Stefanie finally got all of the key stakeholders from the company, not just the IT department, together in one room to break down silos and show that data quality is everyone’s responsibility.
Stefanie joined us for this episode of Possibilities to talk about the evolution of technology, the importance of breaking down silos, and much more.
Evolution of Technology
Over the years, Stefanie has seen technology companies evolve. It used to be the case that many business leaders had no interest in technology that could improve their business. They had their own processes and way of doing things, and to have someone talk to them about advanced technology resulted in their eyes glazing over.
Now, as technology has evolved and is completely interwoven into business culture, many individuals who are leading IT firms come from business-focused background and are usually not technologists themselves.
With this in mind, Stefanie spends most of her time now breaking down silos between departments in her company and explaining that everyone needs to care about other parts of the business, not just their own.
Don’t Operate in a Silo
Aspect is 40 year old company that is spread out over the globe. It’s also an amalgamation of companies that it has merged with along the way. With that comes a lot of messy data and a lot of stakeholders.
Aspect had gone through a digital transformation to the point of creating a data warehouse. Pulling all of the systems together was a difficult process and Stefanie’s team spent a year going to each customer and to ensure the data was represented accurately.
Stefanie realized that they had a huge problem with their data quality, and that the same information was being interpreted many different ways. She knew she needed to get all of the right people in the same room because she was running into issues of people wanting to stay in silos and completing their work separately.
Context is Everything
When Stefanie got everyone together she asked the room, “What does data quality mean?” After a few moments of blank stares she asked “Who owns data quality?” When the room responded with a resounding “IT does!” she laughed and explained that IT should possibly be the last ones to own data quality as they are the ones owning the process, but shouldn’t be defining the data.
IT departments need context; they can’t know how to store data properly if other parties involved doesn’t communicate this well. Data quality is not a responsibility to be kicked around, it’s a partnership between all stakeholders. It’s a classic case of garbage in, garbage out: if there is not high quality data going in, the IT department will still technically be able to store it, but it’s not going to be valuable or useful.
Stefanie took a break from this stakeholder meeting only to return to see those who were siloed and spread out in the conference room now physically walking up to the white board and working together. It was one of the biggest wins of career because she was breaking down barriers.
Improving Over Time
Data is the biggest problem for IT to solve because it is only getting bigger. It is cheap to store, but not cheap to understand and interpret.
Getting marketing, sales, operations, and other departments to take their blinders off and understand the importance of data quality took Stefanie 3 years, but it needed to happen. If the problem is never talked about, the can will continue to get kicked down the road and no problems will be solved.
This involved a lot of challenging conversations, hard work, listening to arguments, and letting go of deeply entrenched positions. But Aspect’s data is being leveraged properly now, and everyone knows their part to play storing in high quality data.
To listen to this episode, click here