Author Archives: sheezaredhead

About sheezaredhead

I'm a Senior Advisor at Export Development Canada. Crusader of good governance, social communications and real leadership, I've been known to rant about information silos and bad business.

Change Management, Communications, and Stirring up Stuff

Yesterday I tweeted that I was going to lay low for a bit because I had stirred some things up. Without going in to too much detail, I commented on an internal blog post that referenced a big corporate change that I didn’t believe any real change was going to occur as I had not seen any modeling of the desired behavior.

Well, did that set off a flurry of activity! And of course that was the whole point of my comment right? And I only said what everyone else was thinking, as many people came to thank me.  What happened next is that my feedback was publicly acknowledged, I was thanked for speaking out, and I was even asked to help with the change effort.

What I want to know is, have you ever seen this happen?  A big change is initiated, there is a robust series of important communications, yet the expected behavior is not modeled for others to follow. I am somewhat surprised that this happens as often as it does. Just do a quick search on google and you will find all kinds of references to instances of this happening. You will also find that in most cases one of the most frequent recommendations for implementing a SUCCESSFUL change, is for the leaders to show others what this change looks like. They need to lead the way by doing what they say they are going to do, and asking others ” how can I help you” ?

This is where my #creative or #insane brain starts to churn. What if our Communications Plan had a section on the modeling of the behaviors? Included would be a description of what the modeled behavior needed to look like, who should do it, how often, what the expected results are and the success measures? Easy peasy.. it’s not rocket science. And then…well who needs a change management plan right? 😉

Just sayin….

It’s not just about the data…

I was sitting in a traffic jam yesterday and there was nothing on the radio so my mind drifted and I started thinking about a couple of things that drive me..that I am passionate about, that I think are HUGELY important. There’s quite a list (ok stop rolling your eyes, it’s not that big) but here are the top three:

  • Communication. It should be in the format of the recipients choice, there should be a feedback mechanism and it should be frequent and comprehensive.
  • Feedback. I only know about 3 people who are really good at giving and receiving it. Everyone else…I never see it. How hard is it to tell someone you really liked their story, presentation, communication, whatever? They will LOVE you for it!
  • Information Sharing. It makes me so grumpy when people don’t share their information. And when they use the excuse because “it’s not yet final”, or “it hasn’t been approved yet” I have a really hard time hiding my body language so it’s not blatantly obvious that I think they are neanderthals…

So I am mulling these things over while sitting in traffic and I’m listening to a news story about a small group of ‘green’ keeners who have started a new thing called ‘Trash parties’. They invite people into their homes for good food and conversation, and then the host brings out the garbage for others to poke through and make suggestions on how they can be better at recycling.  At this point I’m thinking about that moldy three-week old chicken I found in the back of the fridge and tossed in the trash and wondering if they clean out their trash before the company comes. Kind of like those people who clean their house before the cleaning lady comes.

Anyway, I was mulling this over when my mind drifted back to the information sharing peeve of mine and thought what if…what if we did kind of the same thing with our information? We all have tons and tons of information in our personal private folders. You know those 3 versions of documents that are still in draft format? The important emails that house decisions that we have saved…the PDF’s that house industry knowledge? What if we invited our colleagues to poke through our information to see if there was something there that would be of value to them?  I can think of a couple of benefits to this:

  • Like the green keeners, we’d probably do a quick scan first and get rid of the triplicate versions of the same document.
  • We’d also remove some of the industry knowledge white paper stuff that is out of date (I’m sure I’ve got white papers from 2004 on the magic quadrant for CRM solutions).
  • All this pre-sharing information clean-up would help free up some much-needed server space.
  • And our colleagues might find some tidbit that we thought nothing of but could be something really important from their perspective!

The result of all this could be that those of us who don’t like to share might get a little more comfortable sharing information. And maybe, just maybe, we all start to have a better understanding of why all those silos of data and information might not be a good thing.

Ok, so maybe it is all about the data..

The Data Governance Journey – Part 1- Getting Started

Our organization is finally (YAY!!) embarking on a Data Governance program and I’d like to share the saga journey with you. If you are unfamiliar with my story here are the basics:

  • Due to a CRM initiative there was an agreed upon corporate need for Data Quality
  • I was asked to lead the development of the program and establish the team
  • The business functional areas agreed that data quality was needed but were not in a position to sponsor or champion the initiative
  • The program and team had executive IT sponsorship
  • In 4 years the team established a solid program and raised considerable awareness, but due to lack of business sponsorship or a champion much of the work was re-active.

Now, due to a major data related initiative, the corporation has once again agreed that data quality is an issue that needs to be resolved in order for the initiative to be successful. But what’s different this time is that the agreement was formalized.

How we achieved this

A series of workshops were established where those who had agreed that data quality was a critical success factor for the corporate initiative were asked to attend. The workshops were a series of facilitated meetings where different stakeholders were asked to identify goals and objectives, roadblocks and risks and what are the things they felt would enable them to achieve their objectives. The outcomes that resulted were varied but what was obvious were the common themes around their data;  ‘accountability’, ‘establishment of formal policies and compliance processes’, ‘a senior cross functional decision body’, and ‘Training and Communication’, all components of a Data Governance Program. Success measures were also a part of the workshop and agreement was reached on those as well. The final workshop was used to confirm what was agreed upon, what the success measures were and recommended next steps.

Key Strategies

  • Use cross functional workshops to formalize the common themes stakeholders have already informally agreed upon.
  • External consultants help facilitate the process by using subject matter expertise to guide the alignment between business and IT.
  • Always be sure to identify agreed upon success measures.
  • Once agreement is achieved confirm, confirm, confirm the outcomes and next steps.
  • Document the outcomes, agreements, next steps and communicate to the organization.
  • Be sure to include the process to establish funding as a next step.

The Challenges

Most of the stakeholders that were needed to participate are mostly at the senior level and so their availability was a challenge.

What we did

  • Reinforcement of the verbal stakeholder agreements, the corporation’s business objectives and how quality data will help achieve those objectives really helped. Once the first workshop took place everyone was keen to continue and so it got easier to obtain their participation in later sessions.

That’s it so far….I imagine things may get a little more interesting as we get into the development of the program. 

Be sure and tune in for the next episode: Part 2 – Overcoming (the first set of) obstacles.

The role of a Business Analyst in the Management of Information

A new article showed up the other day on our organization’s internal wiki. The topic was ‘The Role of a Business Analyst (BA) in an Agile project’. The content of the article is just starting to be developed, so I took it as an opportunity to add a comment in the form of a question on “the role of a BA in the management of our information as an asset”. My goal was to generate some discussion around this idea, to see what others in the organization are doing/thinking, and to start the process to perhaps develop some formalized responsibilities in this area.

No sooner had I hit the save button when BAM, there was a response that showed interest in the topic and asked me to elaborate! Exactly the response I was hoping for! Muwah ha ha! You probably should know that the person who responded is a very good friend of mine who is quite comfortable with social collaboration and if it wasn’t for her I probably would be having a discussion with myself…ok it’s not really that bad but why is it that some colleagues have no problem updating their facebook status daily but when it comes to collaborating in a wiki they are running for the hills??  Sigh…subject for another day…

So what is the role of a BA in the management of our information as an asset? A  lot may depend on how your organization is organized, what the culture is, what types of resources you have ( maybe you have BA’s solely responsible for information management) and how mature your IM (information management) practices are. But let’s say for the sake of this opinion that you have a somewhat immature organization from an IM perspective, and you are just starting to organize Data Governance and MDM initiatives. This could mean that you are just starting to develop governing principles and operating policies around IM, and you may not yet have them ‘baked in’ to how you manage and deploy projects. Since some resources within an organization may not be familiar with some of the concepts, my approach will be to describe some of the key outcomes that result from not-so-good information management practices, and how a BA might help to resolve them, or ensure they don’t happen to begin with.

Multiple sources, conflicting rules and differing business uses of information

In order to resolve these types of issues you need to link the data to business objectives. This is standard stuff that I don’t often see. I’m not talking “here’s the data I need for this report”. That is not a business objective. The objective should describe the business decisions or triggers or changes that are the intended result.  e.g. This piece of information is used to determine what type of industry our customer is in so that we may ensure that the best person is assigned to them to help them with their needs. When the business objective is clearly linked to the data, it helps IT resources determine how to best architect the data, and business leaders with the information that they really need. It also helps in the resolution of conflicting rules. E.g. while one unit may use the information to identify the appropriate account manager, another business unit may use the information to identify the total amount of risk they have in that industry so that they can ensure they follow regulatory rules. You cannot resolve conflicting rules without having a good understanding of what the information is used for.

Lack of common understanding of what the data means

Ensuring the data has a clear and easy to understand definition and communicating it broadly reduces errors when data is created, transformed and reported on. Eg.  ‘Address’: describes the street location where the company physically resides. Although it looks somewhat self-explanatory, unless it’s clear and understood, what usually happens is you get all kinds of addresses: the mailing address, an email address [I kid you not], a city, etc..  You cannot assume that everyone has the same understanding of what a piece of data means.

There is a problem with the data but no-one seems to care

Identifying who will be responsible for business decisions on the data (and describing what that responsibility is) will ensure you don’t waste time when something needs to be resolved. This need not be a steward of the data as the organization may not be set up that way, but it could be a person or a role, and it should be written into the requirements that there is someone somewhere responsible for making business decision. E.g. The person (or role) responsible for making decisions regarding this data is XXXX. You may find that you are having difficulties getting someone to actually agree to having their name or role written down and being responsible. If this happens, don’t give them the data. Simple as that. No name, no game!

The data is in a mess (still….) and needs to be cleaned up!

Cleaned up to what? Including quality attributes as part of business requirements ensures that everyone understands how good the data needs to be and allows you to better manage  keeping it that way. E.g. The address information must be updated at least one per year to ensure freshness. It cannot contain phrases such as ‘unknown’ and special characters are not allowed. Using the quality requirements allow you to either perform an analysis of the data to understand how bad (or good) it is, and you can also provide the business with a weekly, monthly or yearly report on the quality, so that they can determine if it still meets their needs.

Here’s the summary of my opinion on how a BA can help in the management of our information as an asset

  • Link the data to business objectives
  • Ensure the data has a clear and easy to understand definition
  • Identify who (or what role) is responsible for business decisions regarding the data
  • Identify quality requirements for the data

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does go a long way to helping manage information as an asset. And it’s easy peasy stuff! The hard part…ahhh…the hard part.  Try telling someone a report is not really a goal and see what happens. Not really a good approach. The best way to go about it? Keep your rule/definition/goals antenna on at all times. Although it may seem hard to extract this information in a formal setting, most business stakeholders talk about this stuff all the time. In fact, that’s all they talk about! We just need to be really good at hearing it!

The role of a Business Analyst in an Agile Project while taking Information Management best practices into consideration (whew!)? That is a story that I hope we are beginning to work on!

Don’t! Lie to me.

Lie to Me is one of the few shows on TV I actually watch. I LOVE it! It tells the story of Dr. Cal Lightman (played by another favorite: Tim Roth) and his team who use applied psychology to read facial and body language clues to expose the truth and lies in criminal investigations. The show is so popular that in November of last year it was renewed for another 9 episodes the first of which is scheduled to play on June 7th. I can’t wait!

What does this have to do with Data Quality? Nothing specifically, but it has everything to do with working with others to achieve common outcomes.

If you have been following my blog or tweets, or have read some of the comments I have posted on the blogs of others, you may have noticed that I sometimes make reference to behaviors I have observed that don’t enable trusting, collaborative partnerships; in fact they do quite the opposite! And these behaviors, displayed through facial and body language and, although quite subtle, can be very detrimental to the successful outcome of any project or program.

So why am I writing about this? I read body language. Steady. All the time. In every single encounter and meeting. I know pretty much what you’re thinking, who you like or dislike, what pushes your buttons, and when you are lying (OK, that’s pretty harsh, how about ‘when you are not telling the truth‘). Yes, those times when you verbally agree to something while shaking your head in a back and forth manner tell me that actually you DON’T agree at all, and if you do it with your arms folded across your chest or without eye contact it also tells me that you STRONGLY disagree.

And when you ask for my feedback but focus your eyes elsewhere it tells me that actually, you have no intention of listening to my feedback and in fact, you are probably thinking about what you need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home :p

These types of behaviors do not show trust. They do not suggest partnership, ‘we are in this together’ or ‘I care about your opinion or insight’. They tell me that some form of approach, unilateral decision or direction decision has been made and that regardless of what my, or the insights of others may provide, it will not be taken into consideration.

This is an issue. If you want your project, program, event or activity to be successful, you need to be aware of the motivations and feelings of others, and especially if you are working together as a team. Team: –noun – a number of persons associated in some joint action..

So if you have a common goal, and you want to achieve a successful outcome, you need to work together as a team. And in order to work together as a team, you need to trust each other. And in order to establish trust, you need to be honest. Just tell the truth. If you are making a unilateral decision you might have a perfectly good reason for doing so. Explain the reason. Be open about it. Say: “I need to do X because of Y”, or “I appreciate your feedback but cannot act upon because of this reason”.

You will be surprised at what will happen. The team will appreciate the honesty. They will, in turn, be more open and engaging. You will establish credibility. You will gain supporters. You will have increased chances for a successful outcome. And guess what, your body and facial language will look more like someone who is relaxed, trusting, open and engaging: direct eye contact, informal stature, relaxed arms. You get the picture.

So why do I love the show Lie to Me so much? It takes the reading of body language to the next level. It shows examples of minute facial expressions and body movements that you might not have noticed before and provides some real life examples as to what they probably mean. And I’m a good student! So watch out! I know what you’re thinking. Don’t lie to me!

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything” ~Mark Twain~

Attributes of a Data Rock Star

Earlier this week, Jill Dyché (@JillDyche), successful author, blogger, BI, MDM and Data Governance consultant and all around information guru, created a flurry of creactivity (I just made that word up – it’s a combination of the words creative and activity), when she tweeted a simple response that suggested a couple of data rock star types, in response to an excellent on-line article Are You a Data Rock Star? by Elizabeth Glagowski.

Elizabeth’s article has some excellent descriptions and examples of the attributes of what makes a great data rock star and Jill’s vigorous (and often humorous) take on business and IT alignment always identifies the rock star behaviors of being able to communicate the linkage between a company’s information and its business value.

The results of the flurried creactivity, was Jean-Michel Franco (@jmichel_franco) coming up with a name that was quickly adopted; “The Rolling Forecasts”, and Jim Harris(@ocdqblog), in his latest Obsessive Compulsive Data Quality blog post, coined the brilliantly perfect and perfectly brilliant lyrics to the band’s first song: “You can’t always get the data you want”.

So what I decided to do here was attempt to compile all these rock start attributes and behaviors in a simple format, so that they can be easily re-used and referred to. I plan on adding these to our internal wiki and identifying them as behaviors of successful data stewards. I a) hope they get read and b) hope that they get people thinking, behaving, changing…

· Excellent communicator of business and IT concepts using common language

· Ability to link information to business value

· Effective at communicating concepts and new ideas at early stages in order to reduce change management efforts

· Has excellent self awareness and understands the link between trust and partnership

· Is able to express thoughts and opinions in various ways in order to be able to provide feedback when others may not be interested in hearing it

· And seeks out and is receptive to feedback and continuously provides the opportunity for others to provide it

· Actually listens to the feedback and changes behavior/process/approach for continuous improvement (don’t get me started on people who ask for feedback but couldn’t give a rat’s a**..)

· Understands the link between clarifying expectations and how that will lead to success

· Ability to know how to engage and enthuse others – must understand the body language, communication preferences, motivations and needs of others

· Must be able to spot opportunities and take advantage of them – and especially do it in a way that others are unaware of it

· Must be comfortable pushing the boundaries in order to change things and do so in a way that others are unaware the boundary is being pushed

· Must be comfortable exerting authority and using it appropriately – all the while smiling and engaging others

· Is able to identify key success measures from both business and IT perspective and communicate effectively – at the beginning to confirm what is expected and throughout to continue to re-iterate value

· Is well liked and respected – this will ensure access to resources, tools, other stakeholders, hidden information (you KNOW that happens), and will help pave the way through political and cultural roadblocks

· Be able to articulate solutions as practical and logical and tie them directly to group/organizational goals

What do you think?

Interview with Data Quality Pro

Dylan Jones, founder of the hugely successful Data Quality site: Data Quality Pro, has graciously interviewed me on my approach to achieving some data quality success without the benefit of a business sponsor. Read the full interview here: Interview with Jill Wanless

It was a great experience as it really got me thinking about what it was that really helped our team achieve what we were able to. Dylan does a great job of summarizing the key points and I’d also like to add that achieving data quality success is not a one man job. It requires a team of dedicated and like minded individuals with a good mix of technical savvy, schmoozy sales skills and some serious creativity genes. What I’d really LOVE to do is get a picture up of all of them so you could meet them and see why they are so special. Yeah right..naturally whenever I mention even the slightest suggestion of showcasing their specialness they quickly hide the look of horror on their faces and change the subject. I’m still working on that 😉

So thank you Dylan for being such a supportive champion in my attempts to share our story, and thanks to the best team anyone could ever have!

There I go, getting all Verklempt again..

Data Governance From The Ground Up?

Not really but we can’t sit around forever waiting for the governing roles and responsibilities to be finalized so…

Let me back up a bit. I was the manager of a Data Quality Team. We used creative (aka guerilla) tactics to raise awareness, get buy in, and improve the quality of our customer information. 3 years later I am now a Senior Advisor on the business side, participating in the development of formalized Data Governance. How awesome is that? So what do I mean when I say: “Data Governance from the ground up”? Well due to the fact that Data Governance means a profound change in how we manage our data for both people and processes, lots of discussions and consultations are taking place at the executive level to understand the impacts and begin the process. So in the meantime, a few business stakeholders (yes THEY did it..not me!) have initiated the development of a working group, the goal of which is identify and understand some of the priority data issues that require resolution in order be somewhat organized and prepared for the time when a formal council is established.

The strategy will be to focus on data that is required to support upcoming business objectives, and work together to develop recommendations (and supporting documentation), so that when the formalization occurs, the group is well prepared to begin obtaining approval for and implementing the recommendations. The approach will be to work iteratively starting with the highest priority and pain points, and communicate regularly on the results and successes. The iterative approach will allow the participants and processes to be adjusted and fine tuned as necessary, and will increase the likelihood of buy-in and success.

What happened in Meeting 1?

  • We identified potential stakeholders and agreed that others will be identified as we move forward.
  • We agreed that the scope of the data that we need to focus on will be the basic Company and Contact data: name, address, phone, etc..
  • We agreed that we would start by developing basic operating principles and policies that will drive how we govern our data.
  • And oh yeah, they made me the chair so I get to facilitate, encourage discussion and communicate results…must be my big mouth 🙂

I wanted to share this for a couple of reasons: first, it’s another step up in the Data Quality journey and it will be interesting and hopefully beneficial to others to share the ride, and second, I’m hoping if we get stuck on something I’ll write about it and obtain the feedback and opinions of other subject matter experts. So if you have any questions, comments or feedback, it would be most appreciated.


One small step for IT, one giant step for Data Quality.

I had a vision. My vision was to get buy-in from IT resources to start data management activities at the start of every IT project. Tough thing to achieve when performance is strictly related to delivery, not quality. I could speak [rant..whatever they wanted to call it :P] to them about benefits until I was blue in the face, but until I could describe what the benefits were in terms of project delivery risk management, they quickly went back to managing projects to the way they are used to so they could quickly start on the next one.

I knew that to really get them to listen I needed to put it in their perspective. What are the project risks they encounter every day? What goals are they trying to achieve and how did this tie into the satisfaction of their clients?

Here is what I know:

  • They are busy all the time
  • They have a lot of projects to deliver and limited resources – so no time to even think about new processes
  • They have some satisfied and some not-so satisfied clients
  • They are measured on project delivery (dates) not project quality

So how did I get their attention and show them that pro-active data management activities could help them achieve some of their goals?

I made a diagram. Everyone loves a diagram and no one has time to read text anymore. Plus, I made the diagram in such a way that it has a look similar to a Gantt chart. The goal of the diagram was to show that by not integrating data management activities into their project processes they were actually increasing the data related after project churn: Change requests, data clean-up, data reconciliation etc. These post project activities also used more not less resources (including business resources), which in turn cost money and time and led to less than satisfied clients.

When put in that perspective, most of them nodded their heads in agreement and even provided their own examples of what that after project churn looked like. I’d like to say that after a few of these presentations the corporation saw the light and made a broad announcement that from this day forward Data Quality is a top priority! I’m kidding here…! What did happen though is that the requests to provide Data Quality direction in pre-project analysis increased significantly thereafter. One small step for IT, one giant step for DQ 🙂

Here is the diagram. Click on it to see a larger view.


Guerrilla tactics lead to….change!

Guerrilla tactics lead to… change.

So there I was, a Data Quality manager in IT without a business sponsor. My team and I were applying Guerrilla communivative tactics to raise awareness and get stakeholder engagement when all of the sudden…WHAM!! The ship came in, the planets aligned, the hard work turns to luck, we beat The Kobayashi Maru!!

For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek, the Kobayashi Maru describes a training exercise for Star Trek cadets and it was designed to be a no-win scenario. And let’s face it, if you are running a DQ program and you’re sitting in IT you can only get so far before you absolutely must have a business sponsor.

Our Data Quality team started out 3 years ago and made a lot of good progress. We have an executive (I.T. mind you) approved mandate, we have resources and a budget, we maintain a wiki of over 1000 corporate terms and the related metadata, and we have a small group of business clients who we support and (of course) love dearly. But NOW…now we have a business sponsored Master Data Management (MDM) initiative underway and guess who gets to be the Business Lead for MDM and be ‘The One’ responsible for establishing (and getting business buy-in for) the Data Governance! That’s right, you heard me, I said BUSINESS Lead! I am now officially in ‘the business’ and am reporting directly to ‘the sponsor’! It almost makes me verklempt!

So how did it happen to me? I suppose if you were to watch the movie you would say it was a logical progression. I prefer to think it was the communivative, guerrilla, in your face stalking…nothing says ‘I care’ like persistent determination. So forgive me if I’ve been absent too long, the last few weeks have been interesting to say the least. I am very lucky to be part of this sure to be exciting ride, and I promise there will be more interesting stories ahead.