Organizational Data: Primary Vehicle For The Journey To Digital Transformation

Peter Smyth

Great news! Your organization has decided to embark on a journey of digital transformation. This journey is transformational in nature: It’s a ticket forward to a place of increased organizational insight, efficiency, and optimization.

Your organizational data is a primary vehicle for driving a successful digital transformation journey. As you start to create your journey itinerary and roadmap, I recommend that you follow some guidelines. These will:

  • Identify your expectations
  • Ensure that, as the journey progresses, you can identify, meet, and achieve key milestones

But before we get to the guidelines, let’s envision what the trip will look like.

You will travel as a group. Your entourage will include technical subject-matter experts, business analysts, functional business-unit leaders, enterprise architects, business executives, and more. You won’t always agree, and you won’t always get along. The journey will lead you down new roads, and you will make unexpected discoveries.

With all of that in mind, let’s cover some guidelines that will help lay the groundwork for a successful digital transformation.

  1. Establish business objectives: Embarking on a digital transformation requires sponsorship and investment. The initiative needs to achieve clear business outcomes. For each of the major sponsors, ensure that you have identified clear goals and objectives for making the transformation.

Transformation tip #1: Business architecture will influence where and why you go, as well as how long you need to spend there.

  1. Identify a critical path: Minimize context switching costs – and reduce development costs – by applying a methodology that offers near-term business benefits and foundationally contributes to other initiatives.

Transformation tip #2: When planning your transformation journey, identify a discrete sequence of activities that will keep moving you forward and reduce unnecessary backtracking and rework.

  1. Work towards “minimum viable” products: Focus your design on modular, prioritized features to provide improvements and enhancements over time, and introduce changes when they are identified.

Transformation tip #3: Plan for a sequence of data management activities to happen after the system goes live, including data architecture management, data quality, master data, metadata, and so on.

  1. Identify the point of diminishing returns: When it comes to actively governing data, it is possible to overdo it. If you haven’t proactively established a concrete linkage between the data architecture and the business architecture, then you may end up designing and applying governance logic that delivers marginal – or no – incremental business value.

Transformation tip #4: If your data quality service-level agreement for customer data is 95%, clearly state the reasoning for spending additional efforts to achieve higher benchmarks.

  1. Validate your journey plans with a framework: There are myriad choices and decisions that will require analysis for your digital transformation to be a success. Leverage a framework to identify all possible focus areas. It is equally important to be able to break down and distill the many capabilities and knowledge areas of the framework to identify the essence of what is really necessary to achieve for your unique business goals.

Transformation tip #5: DAMA International’s Guide to the Data Manaement Body of Knowledge, or DMBOK2, is a great reference framework to use in planing enterprise data-management initiatives.

A digital transformation is about identifying, prioritizing, and incrementally focusing on a sequential set of activities. Again, proper data management can help to get you there. But remember, as you prepare for your journey, be sure to establish the prerequisite sequence of logical stops along the way, as well as the resulting experience and capabilities expected from each stop.

Creating a structured plan will ensure that your collective experiences build strength on strength. The result is that, as your journey progresses, you will incrementally develop new and better levels of competency to tackle increasingly complex enterprise data-management challenges. These competencies will serve you well as you travel increasingly further away from your initial point of origin.

Uncertainty is here to stay. By imagining multiple destinies and working back to the present when planning your digital transformation, companies can prepare for anything. This is Why Strategic Plans Need Multiple Futures.


Peter Smyth

About Peter Smyth

Peter Smyth is senior director of Customer Solutions at BackOffice Associates, a leader in information governance and data stewardship solutions. Bringing more than 18 years of data and information-driven industry experience, Peter helps organizations develop strategies for their data journeys through data migration, data quality, and information governance solutions. Through a broad and diverse range of experiences related to financial analysis, commercial management, strategic planning, business intelligence, data warehousing, and data governance, Peter provides a unique and holistic perspective to meeting enterprise data and information requirements. He frequently presents at major industry conferences and events around the globe, such as the Gartner Symposium, SAP Insider, and Mastering SAP.