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Want to engage your business users? Speak their language

On Tuesday, 12 November 2013, Orchestra Networks had the pleasure of hosting Alain Dubost, Head of MDM for Michelin and winner of the Gartner 2013 MDM Excellence Award,  for an hour long webinar on engaging business users. Given the hundreds of registrants and attendees, addressing this problem must be a perennial problem for MDM practitioners.  It makes me wonder if business user engagement contributes to the maturity issue described by John Radcliffe.

Alain gave a wide-ranging, pragmatic presentation that spanned organizational structure, governance, the role of technology in MDM and Legos (more on Legos later).  While we can not provide slides from this presentation, Alain has graciously agreed to answer any questions you might have wanted to ask on building engagement with your users and executives, or organizing your team for MDM success.   To ask questions either:

Over the next couple of weeks, will be updating our blog with the polls and Q&A from the session, but today a few thoughts about Alain’s remarks.

In his presentation, Alain addressed change management challenges head on.  “In most organizations,” he pointed out, “the business does not understand MDM very well. Unfortunately this means when problems arise the business people go to IT and say: We have problems with our data, it’s your fault please fix it.”

This state is problematic as the business people are the ones with a clear and nuanced understanding of the organization’s master data.  This knowledge is why the business ought to be responsible and accountable for maintaining master data consistency and accuracy. Michelin fully embraces this concept and that is why the key roles in master data (owners, quality managers and administrators) are all staffed by the business. Employing clever change management techniques is how Alain and his team took MDM from an “IT problem” to a “Business desire.”

Communication, contends Alain, is the bedrock of any change management plan. To communicate effectively an MDM team must speak the business’ language.  Alain humorously pointed out “You can’t go to the steering committee meetings and start by talking about ETL, SOA, MDM and conceptual data models.” A command of the business’ language enables your team to explain why MDM is a business opportunity, over and above the simple cost savings created by data quality projects.

Alain also discussed the importance of training, coaching, and mentoring. He pointed out that its the responsibility of the core team to deliver the message in ways that stick–“Master data is serious but that doesn’t mean it needs to be tedious.” This is why his team delivers the information using multiple learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, auditory). They used Legos in training exercises for new master data owners, quality owners, and administrators so that the participants could see and feel how master data comes together.  He also stressed the importance of building a support system around the MDM program for both the master data owners and the operational staff. The goal is to not only impart best practices but also provide a sense of shared mission to keep momentum going forward.

Finally, Alain commented that your MDM technology must serve the people at the heart of the process: your business teams. After all, even if you follow Alain’s advice on communications, training, coaching, and mentoring–if the technology you provide to the business teams is tough-to-use, hard-to-learn and difficult-to-change realizing your overall MDM vision and sustaining momentum will be quite challenging.