The life-changing magic of tidying up your data

Self-service business intelligence
Tough Love for Self-Service BI
April 12, 2017
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The life-changing magic of tidying up your data

Business intelligence and data cleaning

If your data is a mess, what are you waiting for? Like many other companies, maybe yours has been ignoring a lot of the things that are wrong with its data and its BI environment. But then the company acquires another, or gets acquired and all hell breaks loose.

It’s no secret that mergers, acquisitions and organizational restructurings wreak havoc on BI. Everyone uses different applications and key performance indicators (KPIs), defines data differently, views reports differently, etc.  Trying to bring that all together and make is consistent is not for the faint of heart.

Data integration, migration and consolidation gets the priority treatment when there’s been a merger or acquisition (M&A).  After all the press releases and analysts’ reviews of an acquisition, the companies involved have to roll up their sleeves, settle in, and work towards a successful and profitable marriage.

These big-ticket data projects often include:

  • Cross-selling to customers across organizations
  • Consolidated financial reporting
  • “Back office efficiencies” such as consolidating business processes and groups
  • Application consolidation such as merging Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems

But I’d like to pose a more fundamental question: Why limit the data integration focus to M&A activities? Yes, it’s obvious that when companies are involved in M&A they need to integrate their application and data silos to increase the top line (revenue), decrease the bottom line (costs), and ultimately increase profits. But, knowing this, and knowing that most (all?) companies have application/data silos, why isn’t it obvious that they need to integrate that data to improve business?

The M&A data integration activities are undertaken with a sense of urgency because it makes business and technical sense to do them – plus, M&A shines a new spotlight on both companies. But meanwhile, other companies sit back and accept their silos, as if that is simply the way it should be.

Do they need the kick-in-the-pants of M&A to get their data integration efforts in gear?

Companies that have data silos desperately need a focus on information management and integration whether they are involved in a recent M&A or not. A survey of 2,100 global C-level executives conducted by PwC found that “…They want to be more data-driven, but acknowledge there is more to do—two-thirds (61%) say their own companies’ decision-making is only somewhat or rarely data-driven.”

This is startling to hear, given the context of the investment that companies have made in information systems.  Where is all that data that is so desperately needed for making informed business decisions?  Then again, it’s not surprising at all when you see all the application/data silos and the lack of an effective Enterprise Information Management (EIM) effort at many companies.

In fact, even many companies’ efforts towards EIM are silo’d with different groups trying different approaches such as:

They all have their own budgets, resources and projects – working independently – to solve integration issues. It’s ironic that these projects, which could be all worthwhile initiatives, result in more silos because they do not have an EIM foundation. Also, companies generally keep data warehousing and ERP groups and projects separate and not coordinated, leaving business people to think the dis-integration is only getting worse.

An additional issue growing more pervasive is business groups picking up the latest self-service BI or data discovery tool because the vendor said they can point directly to any application or database without needing IT. They then become frustrated that what they are accessing is a jumbled heap of data, not information.

I’d dare say those executives have plenty of data, but not nearly enough information.

When you look at these silos in your own company ask yourself if they would be acceptable if you were involved in an M&A.  And if you are trying to justify an EIM program including data governance and an Integration Competency Center (ICC) to the business, then examine the “obvious” business and technical ROI that companies use to push forward these projects when they feel the sense of urgency during M&A.

That should be all the kick-in-the-pants you need.

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For more information on data integration, consolidation and all things BI, please see my book: Business Intelligence Guidebook – From Data Integration to Analytics

1 Comment

  1. Tech Junkie says:

    this is a great article on ways to make better business decisions using Business Intelligence software. Many people do not realize that information is their biggest asset in a company.

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