Words of Wisdom from ‘The Data Whisperer’
By Kerry Young on Sep 4, 2020
Winshuttle recently welcomed Scott Taylor, better known as The Data Whisperer, to share his expert views on helping organizations present a business case for data management to their executive teams.
We love the message of empowering data leaders, so we were delighted to have Scott join us. His presentation packed in so much value that we wanted to share some of his words of wisdom below.
Be sure to check out the Telling Your Data Management Story Using the 3 Vs webinar.
The ‘Why’ is More Important Than the ‘How’
In business, everything we do turns into data, and that data accumulates at a rapid rate. With all this information piling up, the people charged with analyzing and delivering insights ask themselves – how do we manage all this data?
On the other hand, the stakeholders in leadership who actually approve data investments are often swayed by a different question – why is this data important? Scott notes, “If your business leadership doesn‘t understand the why, they don’t care about the how.”
Therefore, the task for your “data people” is to present a story about the value and power of master data. You must engage business stakeholders and C-level executives in a way that captures their hearts and minds. Armed with a compelling story, you can increase business relevance, drive executive action, boost stakeholder engagement, and, ultimately, gain the data management funding you seek.
So, How Do You Tell a Great Data Story?
In order to construct a captivating data story, you must uncover how data enables strategic intentions for your enterprise.
The ultimate goal of every organization is simple – to provide value to your relationships through your brand at scale. As Scott points out, Master Data Management (MDM) makes each part of this equation possible.
- Value: Various departments can establish value by growing, improving, or protecting the enterprise, but only Data Management can do all three through increasing sales, creating efficiencies, and mitigating risk.
- Scale: To scale the value, you must utilize technology. And, technology runs on data.
- Relationships: Master Data is the engine that pushes that value out to your relationships (the parties you interact with), such as your Vendors, Partners, and Consumers.
- Brand: The elements that form the value of your brand – such as your Products, Offerings, Materials, Services, and Locations – are linked together by Master Data.
You must show your leadership how master data acts as the connective tissue linking these concepts. An uninspiring narrative – like the need to improve data quality – won’t work. You need an engaging hook.
Pitch Like Don Draper
If you’ve watched Mad Men, you’ve seen how advertising executive Don Draper uses an irresistible story hook to create a compelling pitch. Business stories must drive action, and the pitch gets the wheels of action rolling.
Not everyone is Don Draper, but every data pitch should move through the same four phases: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Commitment. As Scott explains, “People won’t commit to something they don’t desire. They won’t desire it if they’re not interested. And they can’t be interested unless you get their attention.” Start with the commitment you want to get from leadership, then work backward.
When you build the narrative for your pitch, you want a balance of why and how. The why is the sizzle (a compelling story), and the how is the steak (technical accuracy). Often, it takes more than one person to interestingly convey that balance, so he encourages recruiting allies if necessary.
Leverage the 3 Vs of Data Storytelling
When performing your pitch, the most effective approach is to leverage the 3 Vs of data storytelling: Vocabulary, Voice, and Vision.
- Establish an Accessible Vocabulary
The words you use are important. Stale, unexciting words like quality, cleansing, freshness, and hygiene won’t get the attention of business leaders. They’re looking for more definitive words like structure, standards, coverage, and interoperability.
Also, you must use your company’s terminology for specific Relationships, Offerings, Hierarchies, Segmentation, and Market Geographies. If your company uses the relationship term client, you won’t say customers or consumers. Your enterprise likely has an existing business glossary, so start there. Speaking the language of your audience is imperative to making your pitch accessible.
- Harmonize to a Common Voice
Your pitch should have a consistent tone and tenor, with messaging centered around the key business topics of growing, improving, and protecting the organization. The more you can avoid in-depth technical explanations, the better.
Crystalize your message into a one-to-three-minute elevator pitch. And, have it prepared and practiced so you can deliver it effectively at a moment’s notice. If you need help with your message, talk to different departments to learn how data helps them accomplish their goals.
- Illuminate the Business Vision
How well do you know your company? Listen to challenges discussed in meetings, presentations, townhalls, etc. Study your organization’s annual reports, strategy statements, and investor decks. What do your leaders say they want to accomplish?
These goals typically revolve around relationships and offerings. Find the problems that data can fix, then convey that vision. When you align data goals with the strategic intentions of the enterprise, the shared vision excites business leaders and spurs them into action.
Make Your MDM Pitch Irresistible
When you leverage the 3 Vs of Data Storytelling in your pitches, you create an irresistible picture of how data helps your organization meet its goals. With this framework, your pitch for new data projects should pack a stronger punch.
In the full webinar, Scott cites specific examples, as well as a breakdown of how he would determine the 3 Vs for an actual Fortune 200 company based on an Investor Day Presentation.
Want more words of wisdom? Scott provided his expertise on data as the foundation of digital transformation in a previous session. Check that webinar out here.
About the author
Kerry Young joined EnterWorks in 2006 when Ennovative, Inc., the multi-channel publishing software company he co-founded, was acquired by EnterWorks. He directs EnterWorks’ operations and leads EnterWorks’ professional services and consulting organization, ensuring effective customer implementations and ongoing success. Mr. Young brings more than 25 years of technology and business management experience to EnterWorks, having served as CTO for a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, and earlier as VP, Information Technology for Marshall Industries, a $1.7 billion industrial electronics distributor. He previously managed information systems for a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Mr. Young holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from California State University Fullerton.
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