gartner_london_finalOne of the best lines of the two-day #GartnerMDM conference was spoken by Gartner analyst, Ted Friedman, who made the crowd erupt with laughter when he said, “Even office rubbish is managed better than information in organizations – at least it gets cleaned up every night.”

Prior to delivering that stinging one-liner to over 450 EIM professionals, data architects, business analyst, and chief data officers (CDO), he was talking about the desperate need for organizations to put a higher focus on creating a digital information strategy to maximize business value. In other words, he wants us to find our information nirvana. Here’s a summary of the takeaways from the conference that we can apply in all of our organizations.

Information Wants Freedom: Your CDO Has the Key

According to Gartner, by 2017, 50% of regulated industry firms will have a CDO. Why the sudden rise? A quick poll during the conference on the topic of master data management showed that 50% of IT leaders perform rigorous return on investment (ROI) projections, calculated using time-to-release or budget, prior to IT investments. The other 50% use a faith-based planning method.

Which is the better method? Neither. The primary role of the CDO is to change the way we measure IT investments. How? By changing the conversations we have.

Every Information Conversation Should Be a Business Conversation

Think about your favorite sports coaches. What are their most valuable assets? I would argue it’s the use and choice of their words and the power to which they speak them – in the right context, in the right moment, to the right person. The basis of every conversation the CDO will have will need to reinforce this, “It’s not about the data; it’s about the business outcome.”

IT investments should no longer be measured by whether they are on-time or on-budget but rather be measured on the impact on business outcome such as process improvement, time to market, revenue, and customer or employee retention.

Stop Projects That Have No “Why?”

So how do you start a business conversation? Simply ask, “Why are we doing this?” and make sure to cast the net wide. Engaging in conversations about business goals and outcomes using data requires participation by everyone. IT will need to become better “salespeople” in articulating the value information can bring.

Engaging in this type of conversation will help IT move away from a “department” centered information strategy to a “customer”, “product”, or “citizen” information strategy. This was highlighted by Gartner analyst Debra Logan in her keynote presentation, where she emphasized the need to “Change the conversation, Change the way we speak” and challenged the audience to answer these three questions.

  • What is the most strategic information you have?
  • What information is the most valuable for you to compete?
  • What is the business outcome you’re looking for?

What were the results? Over 50% had no answer, 30% had the wrong answer, 15% had a pretty good answer, and only 5% had a great answer.

How would you answer these questions? What category does your organization fall into today? Is your office rubbish managed better than information at your organization?

Connect with me at Twitter (@kristin_mcmahon) and LinkedIn.