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Master data management in retail – brake or accelerator for growth?

Probably data processes, systems and governance are not sexy topics within your organization. However, without master data no core business process works properly. Definitely in our world where retailers want to transform to digital and omni-channel organizations, masterdata management is a prerequisite. Data and 100% ‘right’ is not part of the core DNA of traditional retailers, they are used to deliver hands-on results. On the contrary, new pure online players have it in their core DNA. So, traditional retailers have to catch up…

With poor data quality, your organization cannot serve its customers to their required service-levels, back-office processes become inconsistent and data is unreliable to steer your organization correctly.

So imagine master data management as a core competence within your company – meaning that the foundation of your core activities is rock solid. So let’s compare it to your house: with the right foundation, it is easy to put in new heating, new plumbing or a new kitchen. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and inconsistencies by setting up master data management properly. This is often seen as ‘not worthwhile the trouble’ or ‘overdone’, but master data management can absolutely be an accelerator instead of a brake for your growth ambitions.

In order to do so, consider ticking at least the following five check boxes:

1) Gain top-level commitment Since master data runs through all core business processes, it is not just a ‘single-unit-party’. This means that changing your processes, the way of working, the way your company looks at data requires a wide range of (long-term) commitment at the highest levels. Top-down support ensures your company will be able to make data-related decisions and get required guidance at the right level.

2) Set up your data governance across all relevant business units Data governance serves an important role in your company, Set the ‘rules of the data game’ by enabling data ownership, resolving data issues and making business decisions on high-quality data. As long as the ‘data rules’ are not embraced by all relevant business units, it will be an uphill battle for the data management team. Developing a successful data governance strategy requires careful planning, alignment with the right people, and the right tools (e.g. business glossary). Three key lessons here:

A) keep it realistic and align your governance with the maturity of the organization B) build a triangular partnership between data-business-IT with clear roles, responsibilities and a steering model C) balance your top-level commitment (see point 1) with bottom up business unit needs.

3) Deliver quick wins Often forgotten when your company wants to do ‘the right thing’ is to deliver short-term results via an agile way of working. Small master data process changes that generate value create buy-in from business units, to also embrace larger changes. Always make sure you put the small changes in perspective of your guiding principles and your end-goal. Here the rule applies ‘just don’t make a regret move’.

4) Build the foundation (long-term perspective) Think about your data management roadmap. First, do you know what the ‘reason of existence’ is for your master data management capability? Hence, develop your master data vision. Once you translate this into your roadmap, make sure you balance your ambition with the maturity and pace of your organization. Second, ensure your fundament is there before you start or make sure that you’re willing to make changes in your IT-landscape on short-term.

5) Build awareness for the relevance of data Master data is not always sexy. So try to come up with a charm-offensive to make it a bit more attractive for the majority of the users. Use your communication department to emphasize the value of high quality data in relation to the business/commercial objectives. Certainly in our digital world we can easily see the benefits of high data quality.

All these five check boxes require careful planning and change management capabilities to some extent. If you tick off all the check boxes, master data can be one of your key accelerators for your future growth.

About IG&H Specializing in retail, we apply our proven Make Strategy Work method to radically improve organizations’ customer focus. Behind us we leave permanent change, embedded at every level. What can we change for you?


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