Cost-Effectively Improving Data Management And Operating Margins To Jumpstart A Digital Transformation

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I’m the digital transformation practice lead for RiseNow. We advise clients on how to effectively digitize supply chain processes.

Most organizations are considering or are already embarking on a digital transformation. However, recent economic headwinds have reduced budgets available to purchase expensive technology, often coupled with these transformations. Instead, organizations have started looking inward for financial margin improvement by optimizing people, processes and technology already in place.

Most companies realize the importance of data stewardship, but only some execute well. According to Gartner, better data management can save an average organization $12.9 million annually. These financial improvements are achieved in many ways, such as by enabling more automated processes, reducing employees’ time searching for needed data and informing more accurate business decision-making.

While challenging and labor-intensive, improving an organization’s data quality costs little, pays immediate financial dividends and can prove to be one of the best ways to jumpstart a digital transformation journey. Following are three actionable steps that can be quickly and cost-effectively initiated to improve an organization’s data quality and realize these savings.

Step 1: Get organized.

Surprisingly, most companies have various data management teams isolated across their organizations. The first actionable step is to identify, assess and inventory these resources and what data they are managing.

For example, it is crucial to evaluate how the addition and maintenance of suppliers, vendors and other master data are collected and by whom. It is also essential to determine where data is being sent, how the transactions occur and the interdependencies between departments. With the facts, create a registry of data management resources, types of data in the organization and the system sources of truth.

Step 2: Identify an executive sponsor.

Many organizations have assigned resources, even some senior leadership positions, to harness the power of their data. However, what is usually missing is an executive sponsor that is willing to bridge data siloes and create a unified data management strategy.

The executive sponsor is critical to arbitrating political disputes, establishing the ground rules for ongoing data management and representing the importance of high-quality data amid senior leadership decision-making. It is vital to data management that this role is established.

Step 3: Establish data governance.

Data governance is essential. All too frequently, however, this critical step does not receive the focus and coordination necessary. For example, there are many occasions when organizations have data governance programs within different parts of the organization. This needs to be more effective.

Instead, create a system-wide data governance team using the information gathered in Step 1 and leveraging the newly appointed executive sponsor engaged in Step 2. This team should meet very frequently at the beginning to establish policies, align resources and dismantle data siloes. Over time, the governance team should be able to meet less often. However, the executive sponsor needs to continue championing this function’s importance.

In Conclusion

These three low-cost, low-tech steps to improve an organization’s data management can help unlock millions of dollars in margin improvement. Furthermore, it can help jumpstart any digital transformation.

Administrative support, team focus and organizational willingness are all needed. Expensive technology is not necessary. This is challenging work, but it is one of the best ways to immediately impact your organization’s financial and operational health.

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