Data Fairy tales – Episode 1 ‘The Quick Win’ for Information Management

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  So, we all remember our ‘happily ever afters’ don’t we? I have the classic Information Management story; an epic and, the proverbial ‘catch-22’ cliffhanger. Its called the ‘Data Quick-Win’ and, I am not sure it always ends happily but, it could do so with a little more thought….. Effective and reliable information is critical, even […]


So, we all remember our ‘happily ever afters’ don’t we?

I have the classic Information Management story; an epic and, the proverbial ‘catch-22’ cliffhanger. Its called the ‘Data Quick-Win’ and, I am not sure it always ends happily but, it could do so with a little more thought…..

Effective and reliable information is critical, even in myths…..


    • David versus Goliath without David’s ability to calculate Goliath’s weak spot and slingshot trajectory.
    • Little Red Riding Hood with an inability to verify & match Granny’s address and confirm her identity at the door.
    • Pinocchio’s ability to lie undetected as Gepeto did not have accurate access to sentiment analytics?


Maybe these tales would have turned out a little differently had ‘gut feel’ or luck not intervened.

Short-cuts are NOT the route to Information Strategy success

In all seriousness, how can the modern organisation hope to operate and make the right decisions without substantial investment and consideration for timely information and insight?

Well, the reality is that, similar to the story of Little Red Riding Hood, most businesses opt for the short-cut through the woods in terms of their approach to information strategy.

Also, I hear that 6 out of Seven Dwarfs are not ‘Happy’ so, loyalty, retention and customer-centricity are clearly still key drivers that the information strategy needs to support!

Enter the legendary ‘Information Quick Win’….

  • It costs very little and, can be delivered quickly
  • It drives business benefit corporately
  • It’s easy to achieve and, provides numerous perspectives
  • It leverages the very best data ‘nuggets’
  • It is both widely accepted and supported corporately


Well that doesn’t sound too taxing does it?

Ladies and Gentlemen! Introducing our top three….

Let’s look at some ‘quick win’ candidates then shall we. How about:

My most profitable products?

We might hear:

‘What do you mean that’s not a product? A service not a product; what’s a service? You have copies of my products in your business line, Why? Profit isn’t calculated that way surely? You run your analytics weekly not monthly? You are using the old product hierarchy aren’t you? Are these based on sales figures or actual PnL entries? Do these figures include discounts at source?’

A breeze! Let’s move on to attack the next one with gusto……

My high value customers?

‘They are my customers not yours! What do you mean an account is not a customer? You segment your customers by geography only, surely not? Do you mean the consumer or commercial? Is this for individual, household or a social media community? Which channels are you measuring exactly? Is this based on the Sales, Group or Financial Customer Hierarchies? Is that in terms of revenue, loyalty, product mix or profitability? Do we mean this quarter, this year or historically? Is this against active product lines only?’

Peanuts! We are on a roll. Let’s strike whilst the iron is hot!

Current Revenue figures?

‘That definition of revenue does not reflect the performance of my department! Do you want WTD, MTD, YTD, Rolling and, does this include the recent acquisition or exclude it? Is that Net Revenue, Gross Revenue and, should it include earnings before interest and depreciation? How do you want that reflected, By cost centre, by customer groupings, by product line, by division or by territory? By current, do you mean this Financial period, the current sales period or, the early interim sales figures? 

CEO Interruption: I will leave you with those then and, expect them on my desk by Friday!

Having Doubts? Let’s speak with IT to clean things up….

They might say:

‘Which system do you want that information from? Ah, that will take at least 48 hours to calculate! Not sure you can get that split in that way! If you want that calculation, it is going to double count some customers! Well, some of what you need is in the BI tool, pieces are in the CRM system and the rest will need to be cross-referenced on-the-fly over the data warehouse! The data in that system is not reliable, are you sure you want to do it that way? I am not sure we hold that information at the level of detail you require? I think that is in archive now, shall I restore it for you? You can get that from the sales data mart but its not a trusted and certified data source!’

The Catch-22 Moment

So what is the catch-22 exactly?

Its the fact that Information practitioners constantly have to compete for funding alongside mainstream ‘business critical’ initiatives that are designed to drive business value quickly.

These ‘project short-cuts‘ usually fragment our corporate information further, and therefore, are not only are unlikely to stand the test of time but, are significantly more likely to make things increasingly difficult.

A strategy that attempts to glean intelligence in this manner has as much chance of long-term success as Icarus had, flying towards the sun.

We’ve created as much data in the last 2 years as the period before back to the beginning of time.

Big data challenges are with us and, the solution requires fundamental changes to our business culture, project approach and demand prioritisation mechanisms when it comes to managing information corporately.

An Ode to Information Quick-Wins

I personally cannot continue to permit ‘Information Quick-Wins’ to be called as such (they should be Information Gradual Losses) and, as such I present:

An ode to the Information Management Quick Win

There once was a Director called Mick,
Who decided to deliver data real quick,
When under-performing, with customers falling,
He realised he’d missed a big trick!

The perpetual fragmentation of corporate data assets for the immediate needs of the specific project task at hand, irretrievably reduces the organisations ability to manage risk, cost and revenue effectively.

So, is the situation hopeless for incremental value from my Information?

Absolutely not!

With the right ongoing strategy, it is possible to develop data agility without boiling the ocean and, furthermore, it is possible with the right foundation, approach and governance in place to incrementally expose flexible information assets to the organisation. It does however, mean that urgent information needs will require slightly more thought, time and investment than the point-solution approach we see so often.

For the way forward, consider the tale of ‘The 3 Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf’.

If the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ is your competitor, the regulator or, a changeable consumer marketplace, how are you going to build your information strategy for the next decade?

Will it be of Straw, Wood or Brick?

Before you answer too quickly, just remember; Brick takes planning, investment, time, building control and, you have to think carefully about how you want to use your final design pragmatically from the perspective of all inhabitants with, one eye firmly on the future.

In short, it’s the most challenging route to follow as it requires substantial thought and foresight, a clear and de-fluffed target vision and, the ability to perpetually balance, scope, quality and timeline challenges against what is truly important to achieving that vision.

Your information strategy should follow suit.

Hopefully, with this approach, the future may not be a case of ‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your data warehouse down’

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