Stibo Systems - The Master Data Management Company

Leveraging Organizational Change Management to Avoid Data Failure

June 03 2014
| 2 minute read

It’s human nature to resist change. It can be scary for most people to go through big changes in their company’s organizational structure, business processes or the technology used to run the business.

I always tell my clients it’s understandable to have problems with how you manage information across a large, complex enterprise. But, as Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

One of the biggest predictors of success in a master data management (MDM) initiative is the degree to which the team embraces organizational change management. Most of the corporate MDM initiatives I’ve seen in the last seven years are similar in scope to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) projects that I did for the previous ten years. I became a big believer in “org. change” when I saw the positive impact it had on those ERP and CRM projects.

What is “organizational change management”? According to SearchCIO, “Organizational change management (OCM) is a framework for managing the effect of new business processes, changes in organizational structure or cultural changes within an enterprise. Simply put, OCM addresses the people side of change management.”

One of the biggest “rookie mistakes” I see teams making in MDM initiatives is to treat them solely as a technology implementation. As a result, they don’t pay enough attention to the “people” and “process” parts of the equation. So when the MDM implementation runs into the inevitable political rough spots, there is no structure in place to help resolve the conflicts.

Here are some concrete recommendations I can pass on from successful projects:

  • Cement your support from the top—It’s critical to have a strong executive sponsor who’s committed to helping communicate the vision and make the case for change.

  • Develop a communications strategy—Put together a plan that focuses on your audience (who you’re going to reach and how you’re going to reach them), plus your message (what you’re going to tell them). Then figure out the time element, and focus on a crisp execution.

  • Align with the overall corporate strategy—The only way to have a real impact that is felt across the business is to address some serious pain points (the “eight hundred pound gorillas”), and to make sure you can clearly describe the alignment between what your program and the 3-5 strategies on which your company is focused.

  • Make sure you can measure your success—People have short memories, and anecdotal measures of success often fall flat. Senior management can sometimes have a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. By building metrics into your program, measuring them periodically, and being able to tie those metrics back to concrete business results, you’ll save yourself major problems down the road.

  • Be ready to change the culture—I sometime tell my clients, “your culture got you here.” In other words, problems with systems, databases, corporate information, data quality and data governance usually originate with cultural issues. I’ve seen companies where people didn’t care about the downstream users of the information they entered, where groups were rewarded for acting in silos, and where IT refused to let the business own the master data. Make sure you have management’s support for pushing for the cultural changes your company needs.

Look for ways you can incorporate organizational change management into your MDM initiative. You’ll dramatically increase your chance of success, and give your company the biggest chance of adopting the necessary changes in people, process and technology. Between strong executive sponsorship, a well thought out communications strategy, alignment with the overall strategic direction of the company, and metrics that prove the positive impact of your program, you’ll get the support you need for gradually changing your company’s culture.


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