Complex Client Data Structures and Fragmented Systems Landscapes
Large organizations often resort to managing client data not as a strategic imperative, but rather as a function of projects that are conceived to solve a specific challenge. There are common organizational and data management challenges faced by large organizations with projects involving client data irrespective of the drivers for change.
There are also a number of key considerations, which are relevant for business and technology project stakeholders at all levels and disciplines. Factors that define the environment in which practitioners operate on client/entity data related projects include the maturity of the existing client data architecture, the enterprise data governance & entity data management strategy, and the specific project / program drivers.
Regardless of these factors, there are 5 key considerations for project practitioners that should help them to steer the project towards success, ensuring that the resultant outcomes are sustainable in their own right, as well as providing a stable foundation for future improvements:
1. Understand the drivers for change, understand the wider context
Whilst this recommendation seems obvious to anybody with project experience, project specialists will typically be able to recall examples where basic project principles, particularly a continued business justification, have been followed in a narrow context without consideration for the wider environment. Recognizing the pervasiveness of client data ensures that practitioners consider the wider implications of projects.
Project stakeholders primarily have an obligation to ensure that projects meet their stated objectives to achieve success, but by including a thorough analysis of the overall business / systems landscape they ensure the project outcomes provide wider benefits, identify potential synergies and avoid duplication. This analysis will be greatly facilitated in organisations that provide a clear systems landscape and data governance strategy. Many project stakeholders may not be aware that such artifacts exist within their organisation. Practitioners should invest the time to search for those artifacts, and to familiarize themselves with them and use them fully where available.
2. Understand the history, the current environment and build a vision for the future of your client data
Most projects managing client data will form part of a larger program of work with a specific focus. To the extent that strategic client data requirements are expressed it is highly likely in large organisations that related projects will have been conceived previously, in full or in part – and the success of these projects will define the stakeholder expectations.
Business stakeholders may be cynical of supporting the latest iteration of a previously tried and failed proposition, or of a product which (actually or apparently) overlaps with existing business systems. Practitioners will benefit from investing the time to understand what those projects were, and why they were or weren’t successful.
By paying close attention to Business stakeholder expectations, and by understanding the wider context into which the client data solution fits, program practitioners can avoid over-promising whilst obtaining customer buy-in through the provision of a clear context and target end-state. New projects should avoid the temptation to ‘boil the ocean’ where wider opportunities for improvement exist.
3. Understand the organisation (people) vested interests in client data
The reality of a complex client data architecture is that there are likely to be a number of competing solutions internally comprising internal systems and third party vendor systems, each of which will have been conceived by a prior project. The sponsors of those projects, the business managers and users may have differing perceptions of those systems that should be understood. There may be vested interests in terms of management needing to demonstrate project success. These factors must be considered in building a road map, to avoid unnecessary distractions and build elements based on maximum value. The paper highlights the value of a proper vendor appraisal, involving all key business and technology stakeholders.
4. Know where you fit in and get advocates
Where the candidate client data management solution provides improved business benefits over incumbent solutions, it is essential that the project demonstrates success in areas of functionality based on the project brief, avoiding duplicating any existing functionality wherever possible. This is essential to avoid alienating users, potentially hostile business managers and project staff who may consequently expend too much focus on justifying the chosen solution where there are overlaps with existing functionality. Using the knowledge gained in steps 1-3 above, project practitioners can ensure that the project succeeds, not only in terms of delivering the primary client data management objectives, but in ensuring that the value proposal is understood in terms of its potential future value. The benefits of understanding the solution, the environment and the organisational priorities combined with a successful initial delivery will help to enlist additional advocates for future development against the roadmap.
5. Be flexible, keep momentum
Once project practitioners have developed a clear roadmap and have support from influential advocates within the organisation, and once the project has demonstrated the ability to successfully implement the product, it will be critical to ensure the roadmap remains relevant as business priorities change and as the technology environment develops. The business and technology advocates will play a crucial role in continuing to promote the managing client data solution in the context of its core benefits after the initial project has closed. To the extent that subsequent phases can be approved during the initial implementation they should be initiated as soon as possible to retain and grow product intellectual property within the organisation.
By Jonathan Poole, Partner, FinReg and Tom Stock, SVP Product Management, GoldenSource Corporation.