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When is it time to bring in the bigwigs for data quality?

Creating a system and program for guaranteeing data quality in your organization is virtually impossible if you try to go it alone. At various stages in the process, you will need input and participation from company leaders, the IT department and all the employees on the business side. However, coordinating the timing for when each group will become involved in the initiative can prove difficult.

Data quality expert Jill Dyche recently discussed the role of executives in data management and other information cleansing programs in an interview with Data Quality Pro's Dylan Jones.

Dyche had recently delivered a presentation at the Data Management and Information Quality 2011 conference about how companies can create corporate data strategies to achieve better governance and quality programs across the enterprise. She notes that in order for the effort to be effective, organizations need to start aligning their business strategies with data governance, since the details contained in databases can have a significant impact on finances, productivity, customer satisfaction and performance.

According to Dyche, many businesses are grasping the concept of getting everyone involved in the process of cleansing and managing data, but they still fail to create actionable points and long-term goals, relegating the conversation to an "academic exercise."

She warns against bringing in the executive sponsors (the ones who will be able to motivate the entire company and have the power of the checkbook) too early in the process. Instead, formulate your data governance plan and build the structure first.

Only then should you enlist "an executive sponsor as opposed to prematurely starting to socialize the idea without a plan," Dyche advises.

Convincing the leaders

Once you've completed the steps of forming and structuring your data governance strategy, how do you convince executives to buy into it? In a piece for Hub Designs Magazine, Dan Power explains what data quality champions must do in order to convince their managers that it is a worthwhile investment of time and money.

In order to convince others of the importance of establishing policies to ensure the changes are long-lasting, you first need to convince yourself, he says. Passion is "very noticeable, and if you can develop that same level of enthusiasm and excitement for your potential project, it will be a huge help in selling the vision to other people, including your company’s executives," Power advises.

Networking within your company will also be essential to success, since you will need leaders of various parts of the organization to participate in order to launch a company-wide initiative.

"Executive buy-in will most likely end up coming from a consensus built from several parts of the organization, not a single overwhelming element of the business case," he says.

Power also explains that strong communication skills are key when trying to convert executives. He suggests building up your "powers of persuasion" rather than jumping directly into the meeting with the bigwigs. Talk to your immediate supervisor about data quality, then discuss the issue with his or her boss and so on as you work up the totem pole. As you progress, you'll become better prepared for the big presentation.

This scenario is also applicable to other kinds of data that your organization may collect, such as details on transactional histories or internal business processes. Treating your data as the asset it is can open up a wealth of insight into the inner workings of the organization and help everyone achieve a greater level of efficiency in their daily duties.

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