"Gonna' throw some data stewards at it!"

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but that was a response I received regarding a $3B company's MDM plan.  While data stewards are not the end all/be all solution to a data management plan, I applaud that the organization has recognized data troubles that they currently face.  It's a big initial step in thinking about the value that data is bringing to their organization.  It's a recognition of how poor data standards has led to costly headaches as they modernize their application and data landscape.   It is also the start of a cultural shift that I hope continues to evolve.

How does one start that cultural shift around data without having to live through that pain element?

There isn't an easy answer to the question, but there are organizations of all sizes and stripes don't have defined data governance and data management functions.   They let the applications do what they do, the people use them how they use them, and the data end up how it ends up.  

If your organization is lacking that cultural importance around data and recognizing its value as an asset, here are a few ideas that may spark conversations and potential a culture shift. If your company is thinking about implementing a new business application in the next 1 to 3 years, it's a golden opportunity for instituting data governance operations.

Inform your company that data is the most cited reason for implementation delay, cost overrun, and project pain.  Data has a high potential to increase implementation costs by millions. This is backed by Gartner, Forrester, or anyone that has lived through a major implementation.

Next , I would talk through how the firm can mitigate that risk and ease future pain by starting to implement data quality and data standards today.  The clean-up work will need to be done regardless.  By having that head start, you can potentially light a spark that builds out the policies, mechanisms, and attitudes about the value of data across the organization.  

Not only will you mitigate risks and lower costs of the implementation, you will improve current business operations dramatically.  I read a report by McKinsey that identified that organizations spend 30% of time doing extra work because of data issues and data management inefficiencies.

Additionally, ask how the organization going to prevent data from getting as bad as it today post go-live.  Depending on the type of data, it will degrade between 4 and 30% each year.

In 5 years, best case scenario the data will be ~80% as clean as it needs to be without clear management in place. That data degradation will have a similar costly impact as the bad data that exists today and will start to negate the savings and process improvements that the new application is suppose to yield.

If your company is bumping along on their current systems with no plans to change course, guess what?  It also a golden time to spark the conversation.

Start to identify and talk through how much data quality and inefficiencies that the team has to fight through on a daily basis. Identify additional value and insights that the organization can gain if it was properly managed.   That 30% stat from McKinsey is valid here. Start to be that data champion and start small on one aspect of the data landscape.  Supplier, customer, or address data might be easy lift with high impact.

On one project, we were told by the client that cleansing up and de-duplicating their supplier data would save them approximately 30% on their raw material costs.  Holy Buckets! This was for Fortune 500 organization, so for a few months of work, we'd conservatively be able to save this organization millions of dollars each year.

Regarding the organization at the beginning of the piece that are throwing some data stewards at their data, we'll see how it plays out over the next months.   They're open to learning more about data management and data governance and that open mind is incredible and without a doubt will lead to great success over the next years.