Published in TDAN.com October 2006
It’s true that large and small businesses share some of the same challenges when confronting data management problems. Budgets, people, time, management priorities – these issues are
universals in the nexus of business need and technology planning. The age of the CIO has raised the consciousness of executive managers to the benefits and risks of investing in their corporate
data. I have seen and heard justifications for spending lavishly on the newest wave of analyst-embraced software or hardware to enhance data management capabilities. CRM, ERP, data quality
software, metadata repository solutions, and servers – the list is long and diverse. I have also heard arguments waged, quite passionately, for maintaining the status quo, despite what might
appear to be obviously strategic reasons for investing in new IT infrastructure. During my years working in the data quality industry I had occasion to hear executives and managers decline to solve
customer information error conditions because the issue wasn’t seen as having a significant detrimental effect on the success of the business. Oh, really? Most of the time those executives didn’t
have to actually use the data in question anyway. Ask the people on the front lines of the competitive battlefield and they would likely tell a different story.
There doesn’t seem to be much distinction between large and small businesses in these situations. Yet, most small businesses face a few challenges not normally found in the large corporate
neighborhood. Chief among these is management bandwidth. This isn’t the same as the priorities referenced earlier. Those cases tend to be rooted in broader concerns, often dictated by a board of
directors. Smaller companies don’t often have to contend with these kinds of constraints. CEOs and executives are often the business owners too, which means they have the power of the purse, the
power to set directions and the entrepreneurial “moxie” to see it through. They are, in effect, the chief cooks and bottle washers.
Despite the frenetic pace these multiple roles demand, in many cases, if you can get a small business owner or executive to stop long enough to actually talk about the issue, they will readily
admit that their business needs help with controlling their data. They understand the impacts of data management problems because they are so closely integrated into the daily operation of the
business. They know what it means to not be able to find the customer’s phone number or to not know for sure what the inventory levels are in the warehouse. Actually taking action to remedy these
circumstances is less certain, however. I often hear managers complain that they are so busy working in their business that they have no time to work on their business. Getting orders filled,
invoices mailed and cash collected are the primary tasks of their work day. Pragmatic thinkers that they are, they know that they can’t address every challenge they face each and every day, so
they have to make tough choices about what to work on and when. They frequently let “data” slip through the cracks because there is usually a proven, if unproductive, workaround for the problem.
The apparent “Catch-22″ isn’t lost on these harried decision makers. They just don’t see that they have any other choice.
Does this sound in the least bit familiar to you? Do you know of companies like these? Do you work in one, or even own one? Or are my experiences more random than I believe? I’d like you to help
me answer these questions by asking you just a few more. Below you’ll find a link to an online survey on Small Business Data Management Best Practices. It should only take a few minutes to
complete and I’ll be happy to share the results with you. You may be surprised to find out what your peers are (or are not) doing about controlling their most valuable corporate asset –
Fill out the survey, including your email address at the end, and I’ll send you an executive summary of the results within a few weeks. Use the information, if possible, to effect positive change
within your company. Your data won’t fix itself.