What's In It for Me?

January 16, 2017

Data Standards: What’s in it for me? An overview


I was asked an interesting and obvious question the other day by an executive at a client. He asked what does RuleBase do for me. We were in the middle of a technology discussion so we ended up discussing it in those terms, but It is a very valid basic question at the most basic level. What does having a data dictionary do for me?


It is a good question because it is definitely not the most exciting topic on the “to-do” list. Creating and managing Master Data Knowledge and standards is maddeningly dull because often the people doing the bulk of the initial work are documenting what they think they thoroughly know. The fact is the documentation process often bubbles up gaps in the “tribal knowledge”. But there are other roles beyond the data steward with a stake in quality documentation / knowledge management outcome.


The “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me?) looks different if you are an executive vs. a Master Data Steward vs. a data consumer vs. IT project leads, etc.


Few executives ever worry explicitly about Master Data and standards and knowledge management.  However, Execs do tend to worry about managing risk, the EBIDA, sometimes Business Intelligence and world peace, at least as world peace related to their global divisions working and playing well under one corporate roof.


The irony is that Master Data Knowledge management plays an important role at each of those levels.


The simple reality is if knowledge is not captured, it ultimately will be lost. Knowledge about the where and why, and when and who of master data cannot be simply extracted from a system like the technical metadata can.


If it is not captured and managed, then any recession or company reorganization will cause the knowledge to cycle to look something like this (quantity of reliable knowledge is on the Y-axis vs time):

What we are talking about with managing knowledge is creating an accurate and complete knowledge “floor” so that the company never falls below a certain level of knowledge because its captured “Explicitly”. That baseline knowledge is globally shared and when a data element is used differently in different regions it is completely transparent to all. Different applications of data are often quite normal. It is the not knowing what is regionally different that causes heartache in reporting, Business Intelligence, data migrations, new projects etc.


Managing the knowledge well means you never fall below a floor regardless of business dynamics like employee turnover, M&A, and new system implementations.



J.G. Pleasants said it best:

“No company can afford the luxury of rediscovering its own prior knowledge. Understanding the company’s past can lead to adapting previous successes, avoiding old mistakes and gaining knowledge far beyond personal experience.”   

J. G. Pleasants, former vice president of Procter & Gamble          (ca 1960)


So, who cares? What is the “What’s In It For Me / WIIFM” proposition?


One thing that makes positioning these projects successfully so difficult is that the WIIFM is very different depending on your point of view first, and second that having standards that are complete, accurate, complete that have cross system integrity, that are testable and tested as a critical enabler for the WIIFM issues are rarely obvious needs until it is too late.


If I reduced to a simple chart, the WIIFM for mature knowledge management for master data it looks like this:

While this is not a comprehensive list and any role/issue can be debated, its directionally correct at least. We will elaborate of these in a future blog. Please follow this series if you are interested.


The last two are probably the most persuasive items on the list for creating and managing an enhanced Data Dictionary will all the knowledge, but they are the least obvious beforehand.

Where does this leave us?

  • Data Dictionaries, if done correctly and thoroughly can impact every level of the organization, but they do so differently and often the impact is indirect to the bottom line.

  • If you have a dictionary already, is it meeting these needs? If not can we talk?


Future blogs will explore how each role can/should rely on the centralized knowledge repository for master data.


We would love to hear from you regarding this blog. 




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