The Business of Data – Make Your Data Management Project a Peacock

I have a lot of admiration for the peacock. At its core, it’s an average-looking, skinny little bird. But that’s not what most people think of when they are asked to picture a peacock. Typically when we think of the peacock, we envision the beautiful fan of feathers—large, ornate, and colorful. Both descriptions of the peacock are true. It is both a skinny little bird as well as an ornate, beautiful creature. But the peacock must have a great marketing team, because our perception focuses on the beautiful feathers, not the dull, ordinary bird.

What does this have to do with data management?” you may ask. Well, I was speaking a client this morning about some success stories at similar companies in their industry, and aligning their data strategy with business vision and objectives. Their response was – “Wow, it seems like these are much larger projects than we’re able to undertake. We don’t have the people or budget to do that.” Without giving away any secrets from my other clients, I made sure to point out that these organizations most often did not have large teams or large budgets. The project usually revolved around a mundane objective such as creating a data dictionary, or increasing data quality by removing customer duplicates, or building a data model. The difference was that they aligned with a business objective and focused time and effort in showing the business value of each of their efforts.

I found myself going back through the presentation with each success story, making them sound more, well…boring. For example, the company that impressed management by getting better quality customer data for marketing campaigns and helping make the CRM migration successful? That was “just” a small data governance project with some data profiling and a good data model. The international pharmaceutical company that streamlined the R&D process through data-driven analysis—that was “just” a series of conceptual data models linked to process models. The organization that changed their entire business model to be a data-driven organization, optimizing and monetizing data as corporate asset? Okay, that one was a little harder, but at its core it still revolved around building a good data architecture built on solid data models, data governance, and data warehousing, integrated with new Big Data systems. Still, at its core, the “boring, architectural, techie stuff”.

We often sell ourselves short in data management and underestimate our efforts and how they contribute to the success of the organization as a whole. You are often doing more than you think. Remember, the peacock has two equally important aspects: the flashy tail, and the core, ordinary bird. It’s the ordinary bird that keeps the animal alive, but that’s not what we focus on. Remember that as you “sell” your data management project or strategy. The more you focus on the success of the organization and data management’s contribution to that success, the more you are seen as a peacock, and not a dull bird. Success breeds success and the more you publicize the profitability of your initial steps in things like data governance, data architecture, etc. the more likely you are to receive follow-on funding, and be seen as a critical asset to the success of the organization.

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Donna Burbank

Donna Burbank

Donna Burbank, is a recognized industry expert in information management with over 20 years of experience in data management and enterprise architecture. She currently is the Managing Director of Global Data Strategy Ltd, an international data management consulting company. Her background is multi-faceted across consulting, product development, product management, brand strategy, marketing, and business leadership in organizations such as CA Technologies, Embarcadero Technologies, and PLATINUM Technologies. She has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies worldwide in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa and speaks regularly at industry conferences. She has co-authored two books: Data Modeling for the Business and Data Modeling Made Simple with CA ERwin Data Modeler r8. She can be reached at and you can follow her on Twitter @donnaburbank.

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